The Mount Owen expansion, approved in 2004, will impact on 35 hectares of the Ravensworth State forest, an ecologically sensitive area, and 59 hectares of native woodland outside of the State forest. To address this impact Mount Owen is implementing an extensive biodiversity offset strategy and conservation programme.
The quality of Mount Owen's biodiversity conservation programme was recognised by the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority in 2005 when the open cut coal mine won the Coal Industry Environmental Award for excellence in environmental management within the New South Wales mining industry. The combined Xstrata and Thiess (contract mine operator) submission, Mount Owen Biodiversity Management Programme, covered:
- management of biodiversity conservation ('offset') areas at Mount Owen Mine;
- progressive rehabilitation of mined land and buffer land to native forest and woodland;
- biodiversity management and monitoring programme; and
- a programme of native forest restoration research in conjunction with the University of Newcastle.
The aim of the biodiversity offset strategy and conservation programme is to mitigate the impact of the mine's extension on threatened native fauna within the project area. To assist with the implementation of this strategy, Mount Owen Mine and the University of Newcastle have developed a targeted research programme to determine best practice methods to restore and monitor the establishment of sustainable forest and woodland communities on degraded pasture lands. Mount Owen has committed AUD1.5 million to the research programme over five years, which will complement ongoing native forest restoration research at the mine.
Mike Cole from the University of Newcastle's Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Restoration said a significant associated benefit of the research programme was research training.
"The University of Newcastle plans to recruit a number of Honours and PhD students to assist with building outcomes from this programme. The research programme will further strengthen the existing relationship between the University and Xstrata," he said.
A draft research programme has been submitted to the Mount Owen Flora and Fauna Advisory Group for review. The Advisory Group oversees the implementation of flora and fauna management at Mount Owen Mine and comprises representatives from the mine, local government, and the Hunter Environment Lobby. Following review by the Advisory Group, the research programme will be submitted to the NSW Department of Planning for its review and approval prior to implementation in 2006.
Community field days will be held for community feedback and to demonstrate achievements at various stages during the project.