Malabar proposes 25MW solar farm on old coal mine

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Coking coal company in Hunter Valley suggests solar farm on former open cut mine in the process of being rehabilitated.

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Malabar Coal is proposing to build a 25MW solar farm on part of a rehabilitated solar farm in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.

The solar farm would be located on the old Drayton open cut coal mine operated by Anglo American that was closed in late 2016, and is now owned by Malabar Coal .

Malabar chairman Wayne Seabrook says the “Maxwell Solar Project” will be a “great use” for a site previously subject to open cut mining. If it goes ahead, it will be the latest of a series of former mines used to host renewables, including the Kidston gold mine in Queensland and the Stawell gold mine in Victoria.

Other mines are being suggested for pumped hydro projects, such as the old iron ore mines in the Middleback ranges that could be used to provide storage for the large solar power plants planned for the Whyalla steel works.

“When we looked at it, it made great sense to put a solar farm here,” he said in a recent statement. The site is near the Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations and the proximity to major energy infrastructure would mean a simple and low-cost connection to the grid.

A spokesperson told RenewEconomy that while initial discussions had been held with local council, and with state government, no formal applications for development approvals had the been made.

It intends to also apply for a State Significant Development to Department of Planning and Environment.

Malabar, however, is still in the coal business. It hopes to gain approval for a new underground mining project covering the Spur Hill and Drayton South tenements that will look to extract coking coal used in steel making.

The project was sold by Anglo American after its efforts to develop an open cut mine caused a protracted battle with thoroughbred studs such as Coolmore and Godolphin, who eventually prevented the open cut option from proceeding..

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