STAKEHOLDERS will be able to have their say on Whitehaven Coal's Vickery Extension Project via two public hearings in July.
The NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has set down two public hearings on July 2 and 3, which will hear concerns for and against the $700 million project.
Due to the social-distancing restrictions enforced by COVID-19, the hearings will be livestreamed and speakers will be given the chance to have their say by video conference or telephone.
July's hearings will be chaired by commissioner John Hann, Professor Chris Fell AM and Professor Zada Lipman, who will determine the state-significant development application.
The hearings will come after the IPC completed the initial stage of a multi-stage public hearing into the project in April 2019.
Following the initial-stage hearings, NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes requested the IPC conduct the final hearings before making its determination.
The decision to hold the hearings online comes as a blow to activist groups such as Lock the Gate, which had lobbied for the hearings to be delayed until the COVID-19 pandemic was over.
Lock the Gate Spokesperson Georgina Woods said last month the group had called on Minister Stokes to delay the hearings until they could be held publicly.
"Many people living in North West NSW will struggle to participate in digital hearings because they live on the wrong side of the digital divide," Ms Woods said in April.
"These hearings remove the community's legal rights to have the merits of any decision challenged in court, so it's vitally important that they are thorough and inclusive."
If the $700 million project is approved by the IPC, it's expected to generate 450 ongoing jobs and 500 construction jobs, as well as a net benefit of $1.16 billion to the state.
Anyone wishing to have their say at the public hearings will need to register with the IPC via email@example.com by June 18.