"There has been a major environmental mine disaster in the Blue Mountains# said Mr Keith Muir director, Colong Foundation for Wilderness.
"A significant collapse of the mine waste has occurred at the Clarence Colliery in the Wollangambe River headwaters spilling many tonnes of coal fines into the river.
"The Wollangambe River, a wild river that passes through the Wollemi Wilderness, our largest and most pristine wilderness, part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, has just been subjected to a major pollution event.
"This collapse at the Clarence Colliery will make the Wollangambe River turn black along entire reach and spread coal fines through the Wollangambe Canyons. These canyons are loved by many. It is a real tragedy, equivalent to a giant oil spill.
"The lax environmental performance of Centennial Coal is to blame.
"The disaster comes at a time when the EPA was negotiating a major pollution control improvement program to remove 25ML/day of toxic mine effluent that has discharged into this river, and restore it to a pristine state. It was a program that conservationists had been working for years to achieve, Mr Muir said.
"It is hard to fathom why such a major disaster is coincident with these reform measures, and during fine weather*. Whatever the cause, this proves disaster that Centennial Coal just can't be trusted!
"Many years ago, the Metropolitan Colliery ruined the Hacking River that flows through Royal National Park when its mine reject heap collapsed. One thing for sure, tonight the EPA and Centennial will not have a plan to fix this. It should never have happened, it's really a serious crime against nature.
"This is a major disaster and Centennial Coal that they will have to answer for it! Coal industry spin doctors will be working overtime tonight.
Media contact: Keith Muir 0412 791 404 mob; 9261 2400 wk
# link to new images https://www.dropbox.com/sh/
* Coal Waste heaps rarely collapse, and when they do it has almost always occurs during periods of heavy rain, but in this case the collapse has occurred in fine weather. This suggests that either the large coal waste heap was completely unsound or not an engineered structure, or, some "highly unusual factors" were in play. The incident is subject to a legal investigation, and the EPA should not rule anything out at this stage.