A MINING company's retrospective development applications for two pipelines have been approved by the state government after just four days.
Whitehaven Coal had already completed two pipelines, which transfer groundwater from nearby farms to the Maules Creek mine, before it sought approval.
Environmental groups and concerned locals are disappointed no opportunity was provided for public feedback on the pipelines, and claim the projects were "rubber stamped".
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However, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) said it was not required to exhibit or seek submissions on modification applications with "minimal environmental impact", nor were the projects fast-tracked.
"The department assessed both applications on their merits in the same way it assesses all other applications," a DPIE spokesperson said.
"This assessment concluded that the use of the pipelines was essential to support the ongoing operation of the mine, and would provide certainty for the 650 staff and contractors working on site during the current drought.
"It also found that the use of the pipelines could occur with minimal environmental impact and could be suitably regulated under the existing conditions of consent."
DPIE said Whitehaven could be penalised for breaching environmental planning laws.
"The Department's compliance team is currently investigating whether Whitehaven breached the EP&A Act," the DPIE spokesperson said.
"These penalties include official cautions, penalty infringement notices and in the most serious cases, prosecution with penalties up to $5 million."