Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Environment Minister Burke must require a transparent process for endangered swamp protection

“Yesterday Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke issued an approval to Springvale Colliery located near Lithgow.  The approval had as its first condition a secondary approval process that could permit longwall mining under the best remaining Nationally Endangered peat swamps in the Gardens of Stone reserve proposal.  The approval did not, however, require a transparent and public assessment process to help ensure any subsequent Ministerial decisions are properly made,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness calls on the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to give a guarantee that any secondary approval process would be a public, transparent process, and rely upon peer reviewed independent science, not consultant reports funded by the mining company”, he said.

“If the secondary approvals for mining under swamps are not public and reliant upon secret internal reviews, then yesterday’s approval with swamp protection is likely to become a cynical exercise leading to secret deals contingent on political expedience,” he said.

“The Federal environmental approval provided to Centennial Coal yesterday appears to set up internal processes where a coal company has only to pass a weak environmental test to be allowed to mine under the Nationally Endangered peat swamps.  Any subsequent damage to rock strata under a swamp unfortunately cannot be repaired by any known technique without causing huge damage during the repair process,” he said.

“Of course surface cracking of rock strata caused by intensive underground coal mining lowers the near surface ground water causing any swamps above the mine to dry out and its rare vegetation to die.  A swamp is more or less created when the groundwater level comes to or very near the surface, so any lowering of the water level, kills the swamp.  This is why the NSW Scientific Committee determined that longwall mining threatens these beautiful upland swamps”, Mr Muir said.

The community has had enough of mining consultant assertions that includes such nonsense as self-healing of cracks.  It is essential that the public has an opportunity to examine and comment on the documentation for any proposed secondary approvals. While it is hard for a non-expert to rebut all of nonsense in mining consultant reports, the public can bring abundant evidence of swamp damage before decision makers at that critical point of decision. The Minister can at least then have a chance of making an informed decision”, Mr Muir said.  

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