Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Almost a month after Wollangambe River spill, Centennial Coal has not cleaned up its mess

Nature Conservation Council of NSW
The Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd

Almost one month after tonnes of finely crushed coal from a mine tailings dump collapsed into the Wollangambe River, the company responsible has still not begun a clean-up operation that was ordered by NSW Environment Protection Authority [1].

The EPA issued a Clean-Up Notice on July 3 requiring the pollution be removed by July 7 after a wall of a tailings dump at Centennial Coal’s Clarence Colliery near Lithgow collapsed, spilling into the Wollangambe River, which flows into the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

“Inaction by Centennial Coal has allowed tonnes of finely crushed coal to move eight kilometres down this wild river,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.  “If immediate action is not taken, these pollutants will soon enter the spectacular Wollangambe canyon in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area where any remedial action will be vastly more difficult and expensive.

“Centennial’s inaction demonstrates an utter contempt for the environment and for environmental regulation. We demand the company take effective immediate action to remediate the river and ensure the damage caused by this spill does not spread further. We also urge in the EPA in the strongest possible terms to do what the public expects and use all powers available to bring this rouge company to heel.”

Colong Foundation for Wilderness Director Keith Muir said: “Centennial is delaying critical clean-up action, perhaps in the hope that it will soon be too late.  Perhaps Centennial hopes it can worm out of its duty to clean up the river and somehow escape a heavy fine.

“Centennial’s inaction regarding the Wollangambe River clean-up is equivalent to failing to applying life-saving first aid to an injured person. I have heard all the excuses. The claim that the coal fines in the river are ‘inert’, that Centennial’s chronic 19Ml/day of mine effluent discharge makes the spill less important as the river is already damaged.

“I have heard it said that if the river is left alone it will probably get better. So might an injured person get better, but Centennial has not discharged its duty to aid the injured river by cleaning it up. 

“I find this situation remarkable, and very disturbing. To allow this well-loved and wild river in a World Heritage Area to suffer this serious acute injury without Centennial Coal responding. Canyoners and locals are very angry about this response. The Wollangambe River must be cleaned up and Centennial Coal must answer for its inaction to date.”

[1] www.epa.nsw.gov.au/prpoeoapp/ViewPOEONotice.aspx?DOCID=-1&SYSUID=1&LICID=1531813

See also: NPWS-EPA Coordination of Volunteers mapping coal fine spill in the 'Gambe

Media contact:
Colong Foundation for Wilderness, Keith Muir, 0412 791 404
Nature Conservation Council, James Tremain, 0419 272 254