Coal mining - the problems
Open-cut mining now threatens the Baal Bone-Long Swamp section of the Gardens of Stone Stage 2 reserve proposal (GoS2) with progressive destruction. The area’s biodiversity and most if its unique scenic features are largely intact despite some subsidence impacts from underground mining. The large areas now threatened are mostly on the lower slopes of Permian sediments, where the coal is accessible to opencut methods. This is also where the richer forests and Endangered Ecological Communities grow, and where most of the threatened species live.
The Planning Assessment Commission held a public hearing into the proposed Coalpac open-cut mining proposal that would generate enough waste rock to almost fill Sydney Harbour. The alternative to mining is a magnificent conservation reserve. This part of the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area alone would protect at least 135 species of vertebrate wildlife, more than 20 threatened species, three Endangered Ecological Communities, superb forest and woodlands and masses of wondrously scenic pagodas. It will also provide sustainable and valuable benefits to public recreation and the local economy for centuries.
The Colong Foundation's final submission to the Commission argued that the area's heritage values were outstanding and irreplacable while the coal resources were poor quality high-ash, high-shale remnants from underground mining that removed the valuable Lithgow seam. These remnants could be substitued with other coal resources from mines established to supply the power plants with coal.
On Newnes Plateau section of GoS2, intensive underground coal mining causes up to two metres of surface subsidence. The rock strata above longwall mining operations in the Mountains collapse into the void created by the mining. The ground cracks with subsidence, creek flow and water levels in swamps diminish, and if cliffs or pagodas rest above the coal seam, these topple and collapse. Other problems with coal mining include ecotoxic water pollution, a myriad of access roads that fragment bushland, cause soil erosion, encourage off road vehicle use, weed infestation and foraging by feral animals.