Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

The Devil's in the detail of the Metropolitan Mine approval

“The approval of Peabody's massive coal Metropolitan mine extension will allow coal mining under the stored waters behind Woronora Dam, so the mining boffins that have got it so wrong in the past, better have it right this time”, warned Mr Keith Muir, director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“At a glance it appears that the recommendations 1974 Renyolds Royal Commission into mining under stored waters are essentially implemented under this approval, which is a good thing, as it was the only open and transparent process ever conducted into mining in catchment areas. Last year's inquiry was too closely aligned to the mining industry and its results are not to be trusted”, said Mr Muir.

“The devil is in the detail of the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally's approval and it really reads like the fine print in a car warranty,” he said.

“The offered “protection” of two reaches of two steams and the retention of bigger coal pillars under the stored waters in Woronora Dam is an inadequate response to ensure water supply security. Sutherland's only water supply must not fail, not ever, and that requires protection of near surface groundwater through a significant reduction in the intensity of coal mining,” he said.

“Intensive longwall coal mining, which takes place over most of the approval area will lower the near surface groundwater levels, which must adversely impact upon the stream flow in the Woronora water supply catchment. The coal industry has not effectively monitored near surface groundwater over the 40 years of longwall mining in water catchments to avoid facing this fact”, Mr Muir said.

“You must be a cynic, as coal mining abuse to streams has only got worse over the years,” said Mr Muir.

“The announced back filling of coal waste into the mine is a good initiative, and I support this experiment, as it is a good idea, but there is also a fallback in the approval. I hope that the Minister has thought through the fallback emplacement area and where the masses of new coal waste may have to go ?, wondered Mr Muir. Hopefully not into one of rainforest gullies along the Hacking River , as proposed but rejected in the early 1980s”, he added.

“The 400,000 tonnes of coal that can be hauled by truck under this approval will reduce road safety in the Illawarra . There should have been a requirement that all coal be hauled by rail”, Mr Muir said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir , (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)