Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Damage to the Upper Cataract River must be stopped

The first longwall panel at BHP Billiton’s Appin 3 mine started in October last year but has already cracked the bed of the Upper Cataract River. The river carries an average 7% of Sydney’s water supply. The river from the Cataract Dam to the Broughton’s Pass Weir operates as an open canal conducting water from the dam on its way to the Prospect water treatment plant.

“The Colong Foundation for Wilderness calls on both Labor and the Coalition Parties to stop the damage to this essential artery for the city. The Department of Primary Industries approved an offset distance from the Cataract River of just 80 metres, little changed from BHP-B’s proposal. The advice from Sydney Catchment Authority consultant’s was for a setback of 350 metres. The Authority has been proved right, and we seek a statement from the major parties supporting a setback for the Upper Cataract of at least 350 metres, and preferably 1 kilometre, to stop further damage,” said Mr Keith Muir the Foundation’s director.

“Any further cracking damage to streams in our drinking water supplies is unacceptable. A condition of approval for Appin 3 requires that any bad cracking damage would mean that the two other approved longwalls would have to be moved back. BHP-Bs experts will say the damage is minimal, and so this abuse will continue to fall beneath the political radar unless action is taken now,” Mr Muir said.

“Four streams in our water supply catchments have suffered cracking damaged, how many more need to be wrecked before the politicians act? The coal inquiries offered by the major parties are a guarantee inaction. The major parties must also offer a moratorium on new mining to protect our essential water supplies and infrastructure while the inquiry proceeds,” said Mr Muir.

Mining inquiries likely fail to protect water supplies

“The Colong Foundation is pleased that the Coalition has called for an “independent inquiry” (Mr Michael Richardson’s MR, March 5th). But such an inquiry will not stop this damage as it will tend to focus on the economic costs of environment protection, rather than preserving essential water supplies. An entrenched mining industry that continues to damage the sources of our drinking water supply with impunity needs a stronger hand,” he said.

“The inquiry process is a David and Goliath struggle at best. Conservationists would be overwhelmed by well-paid pro-mining experts and their evidence. Inquiries must also rely on public documents that contain no controversial information. Inquiries lack the legal teeth to access key mining company and government documents that reveal the necessary details,” Mr Muir said.

“We welcome the Coalition’s call for protection of rivers. Any inquiry also should focus on further protection for drinking water catchments and supply infrastructure. Rivers are important, but so to are the catchments for these rivers. If catchments are damaged, the rivers have little water to transmit. The fact that the Scientific Committee listed longwall coal mining as a threatening activity for upland swamps means that coal mining can damage the sources of water supply, as well as rivers”, said Mr Muir.

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