Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Effective Action required to stop further mining damage to Sydney’s water supply catchments

“The severe damage to Waratah Rivulet by intensive underground coal mining has compromised its ability to collect and transmit drinking water to Woronora Dam. The Rivulet represents a third of the catchment of Woronora Dam that supplies the Sutherland Shire and Helensburgh with water,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The Iemma Government must show leadership and direct mine regulators to preserve the integrity of Sydney’s water supply catchments by restricting the intensity of underground coal mining in these areas”, Mr Muir said.

“The intensity of underground mining must be reduced to stop further damage to the water supply catchments for Sydney and Wollongong. The causes of the damage are well known and the Government’s limp response of calling an inquiry (6th December) ignores the seriousness of the problem and seeks to defer any extra controls on mining until after 2010. A moratorium on mining approvals must come into immediate effect and operate until mining companies agree to stronger controls that will prevent damage to our drinking water catchments,” he said.

“The Sydney Catchment Authority should be given the power to control mining under water supply areas, including its catchments and the upper canal, because the Department of Primary Industry (Minerals) is too closely aligned with the coal miners to adequately respond to the dangers posed to our water supplies”, said Mr Muir.

“The damage to Waratah Rivulet is not an isolated incident of damage to our water supply catchments. I have seen similar extensive damage of Wongawilli and Native Dog Creeks that comprise other important parts of our water supply catchment. Significant reaches of these three streams no longer effectively collect and transmit water due to the effects of underground coal mining. Cliff falls and major surface cracking has also been caused by intensive mining at the Dendrobium Colliery,” he said.

“More coal needs to be retained under the drinking water catchments to prevent surface damage such as stream bed cracking and water pollution. The Government’s mining engineers need to be directed by politicians to give priority to catchment preservation above coal extraction,” Mr Muir said.

“If we allow the coal mining damage to continue we will need more than a desalination plant to secure adequate water resources. Our formerly pristine water supply catchments south of Sydney are simply an irreplaceable resource. The Metropolitan and Woronora catchments are situated above the Illawarra Escarpment and receive the most reliable rainfall in the Sydney region. Fresh pure, clean water from these catchments must not be degraded and diminished by coal mining,” said Mr Muir

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 9550 3615 (ah)