Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Coal mining inquiry could be a licence to crack the drinking water catchments

“Both the Labor Government and Coalition Parties have proposed an inquiry to address the impacts of coal mining in our water supply catchments. This is despite the fact that these damaging mining operations were approved by previous Planning Inquiries,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

The last major inquiry into coal mining legitimised very serious damage to our water supply catchments and set the current environmental standards for mining in these areas under subsidence management plans,” Mr Muir said.

“In 2001 Planning Inquiry into the Dendrobium coal mine approved coal mining that would cause surface cracking up to 250 mm wide, drainage of streams and upland swamps, landslides and rock falls affecting 10 per cent of cliffs, methane gas emissions and water pollution. These catchment spoiling impacts were all outlined by BHP-Billiton’s own experts in their environmental impact statement for the mine,” Mr Muir revealed.

“Neither inquiry proposed by Labor Government or the Coalition Parties will stop serious surface cracking. Instead, these proposed inquiries would focus on the economic and social impacts of further environmental protection, and come to the same poor conclusions as achieved in 2001,” he said.

“In the 2001 Dendrobium Inquiry BHP-Billiton claimed that providing protection for all creeks and swamps would prevent the mine from going ahead. The Commissioners of Inquiry caved in to this pressure fearing its potential impact on the Illawarra and the domestic steel industry,” Mr Muir said.

“Either a high powered Inquiry, with the powers of a Royal Commission is needed, or, preferably, regulatory responsibility must pass to the Minister for the Environment as well as the Minister for Primary Industries to make catchment preservation the primary consideration for mining in these areas”, he said.

Our irreplaceable catchments will continue to be subject to on-going abuse, and on-going experiments at repairing cracks, until Government stops the damage. Some of the cracks associated with the Dendrobium mine are larger than 250 mm wide. The new subsidence management planning approach has also failed because of the hard line mining industry set the bar way too low”, Mr Muir said.

“The coal industry is destroying our water supply catchment. A much stronger hand is need to stop the damage, and the ball is squarely in the politicians court,” he said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9299 7341 (wk) or 9550 3615 (ah)