Fast-tracked assessment of mines in NSW as state expands high-tech metals mining

The last 12 months has seen a marked increase in Exploration Licence Applications in NSW for Group 1 (Metallic Minerals) covering dozens of resources and including gold, copper and lithium. Many of these metals are crucial to the renewable energy revolution that the NSW Government is determined to foster at an export capacity. Whilst bringing revenue and much needed investment and jobs to regional Australia the scale of what is proposed has many communities worried about their water and how it will be impacted.

The assessment process for these types of mines is about to be overhauled and it would appear that communities will have even less input into the planning process with the Rapid Assessment Framework submissions process revealing negative reviews and serious concerns particularly around the Registered Environmental Assessment Practitioner (REAP) scheme.  Cutting environmental red tape is something the IPA has lobbied hard for and the NSW Government has acquiesced.

Gold in all the hills

The Mt Carrington Gold Project is a proposed open cut gold mine and processing operation, to be developed approximately three kilometres north of Drake. The township of Drake is around 50km east of Tenterfield, in northern New South Wales. It will be operated by White Rock Minerals.

There is an existing operation on site that hosts legacy issues in the form of acid mine drainage. The mine sits on Sawpit Creek, which flows into Plumbago Creek and then on into the Clarence River. This proposal is in its early stages. More info can be found here. Around four million tonnes of gold ore are forecast to be mined and processed, to produce approximately 165,700 ounces of gold. Community are invited to subscribe for project updates. The project is commencing a Scoping Phase, which involves early planning of the specialist environmental, social and economic studies to be undertaken, as part of preparing an EIS.

To find out more about this project you can contact EMM who are the consultants for the project on 1800 431 426 (Freecall) or email

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is the state planning authority for the project. The project will be assessed as a State Significant Development (SSD), under Part 4 of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This will involve preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Changes to assessments

Image of the current Exploration Licence Applications across NSW that include Group 1 metals.

The way SSD projects are assessed in NSW is changing. From 1 July 2022, all environmental impact statements attached to state significant development (SSD) and state significant infrastructure (SSI) applications will need to be reviewed by a registered environmental assessment practitioner (REAP). It is likely that this mine and many others in the application stages will be assessed under this new framework. This new process is bound to cause confusion and create chaos for communities who are trying to keep up with the expanding extractive industries in NSW.

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