Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Coal miners’ plans accelerate swamp degradation

Nationally threatened swamps[i] have posed an apparently unbeatable problem to coal miners for although they cover a small area, they are distributed across the Southern and Western Coalfields and longwall mining is a key threatening process to them.  Yet Centennial Coal has succeeded in defeating this problem.  Their solution is simplicity in itself; just tell a big lie!

“Centennial Coal’s claim that its longwall mining at Springvale Mine will have nil or negligible impacts on nationally endangered swamps[ii] is untrue[iii], despite being frequently stated in its April 2014 environmental impact statement and on ABC television[iv],” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Not only has Centennial Coal been required to pay $1.45 million under an enforceable undertaking to the Federal Government for damaging swamps[v], its own groundwater expert stated that Longwall 409 has impacted on the groundwater regime beneath [Junction] Swamp[vi].  And more recently Sunnyside East Swamp has been similarly impacted with a loss of shallow groundwater[vii].  Despite this evidence, Centennial asserts that swamps found on Newnes Plateau in areas undermined are rainfall dependent, while those in yet to be mined areas are groundwater dependent[viii].  This is hardly a coincidence,” Mr Muir said.

Swamp Offset Policy[ix] compromised

A draft swamp offset policy is a key part of the recent Springvale mine extension approval.  It appeared in the middle of the public review process for the mine[x] and is claimed to encourage longwall mining to have nil or negligible effects on swamps[xi].

“Both Centennial Coal and the NSW Minerals Council sought to pervert the outcome of the Swamp Offset Policy by making untrue assertions about longwall mining[xii] in relation to it.  These assertions claim that secondary effects[xiii],[xiv] by fire, heavy rainfall and drought are the alleged causes of swamp impacts.  While this sounds plausible, swamps that haven’t been mined under are not damaged by natural processes. The swamps on Newnes Plateau would have disappeared a long time ago if damaged by natural processes”, said Mr Muir.

The draft Swamp Offset Policy is about to be adopted by the NSW Government and it relies on the industry’s negligible impacts assertion.  If the policy adopted it will accelerate the demise of swamps by facilitating longwall mining under them,” he said.

“The policy will cause additional injury as it enables swamp rehabilitation costs to be funded through this offset policy[xv], despite the fact that there is no credible evidence that damage caused to swamps by longwall mining can be successfully repaired[xvi]”, Mr Muir said. 

“The Springvale mine consent and the draft swamp offset policy are based on incorrect and misleading information and must be corrected so that longwall mining avoids nationally endangered swamps,” said Mr Muir.

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

Pells Consulting (24 Dec 2015) Impacts from coal mining at Springvale Colliery on the Temperate Highland Peat Swamps of the Newnes Plateau

Peter Hannam, SMH 2/3/2016 'Very fragile system' at risk from coal mining in Sydney water catchment: study


[i] Federally listed as the Temperate Highland Peat Swamp on Sandstone (THPSS) includes the following swamp types:

1. Newnes Plateau Shrub Swamps (NPSS);
2. Newnes Plateau Hanging Swamps (NPHS); and
3. Newnes Plateau Rush Sedge Snow Gum Wooden Heath Grassy Woodland (NPRSSG)

Centennial Coal EIS (2014) notes that “the swamps are listed endangered ecological communities under the TSC Act, and important habitat for a range of plants and animals” (pg. 275).

[ii] Springvale Mine Extension Project, April 2014, Appendix E, on page 75; Environmental Impact Statement for the Springvale Mine Extension Project, April 2014, the Appendix B to Appendix E, page 11; McHugh, E. 2013. The Geology of the Shrub Swamps within Angus Place/Springvale Collieries, prepared for Springvale Coal Pty Ltd, July 2013; and Centennial Coal, April 2014, Environmental Impact Statement – Springvale Mine Extension Project (SSD 5594), page 324 – ‘minimal impact on the swamps.’

[iii] The alteration of habitat following subsidence due to longwall mining is listed as a Key Threatening Process in Schedule 3 of the TSC Act (NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change 2009) (gazetted 15 July 2005); NSW Scientific Committee – Final Determination for the Coastal Upland Swamp in the Sydney Basin Bioregion – endangered ecological community listing. Available at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/determinations/coastaluplandswampfd.ht... The NSW Scientific Committee recommended that Coastal Upland Swamps be listed as an EEC was partly based on evidence that ‘[s]ubsidence and warping of the land surface associated with longwall mining of underground coal seams potentially changes hydrological processes involving both ground water and surface water.’

[v] October 2011: ‘Enforceable undertaking’ is issued to Centennial Coal following alleged breach of EPBC Act.

[vi] Connell Wagner PPI Energy Solutions, May 2005, Appendix I, in Springvale Colliery Longwalls 411-418 Subsidence Management Plan Application, Springvale Coal, Lidsdale, page 14.

[vii] Piezometre 3 Sunnyside East Swamp in mid 2012 fell from ground level 1.7 metres to the bottom of the monitoring hole and stayed there.

[viii] Centennial Coal Springvale Mine Extension Project EIS, in Aquiterra Consulting, 2014, Appendix E, page 32 and 33 Table 4.1 Swamp Type, and Pells 2016 page 27.

[ix] Policy Framework for Biodiversity Offsets for Upland Swamps and Associated Threatened Species, impacted by longwall mine subsidence, May 2015

[x] May 28, DPE released a draft Swamp Policy, the day after a PAC public hearing on the Springvale mine extension.

[xi] Pers Comm., 11 Feb 2016, Derek Rutherford, Director South Branch, Regional Operations, OEH.

[xii] Submissions to draft swamp offset policy – NSW Minerals Council, July 2015 submission, Attachment 1 and Centennial Coal 8 July 2015 submission, Attachment 3, page 18

[xiii] Minerals Council submission July 2015 to draft Swamp Offset Policy, page 1

[xiv] Centennial Coal report Summary of Mine History, Swamp Management and Mitigation, Attachment 1, page 25, to letter also by Centennial Coal dated 27 March 2015,

[xv] The draft Swamp Offset Policy must align and be compliant with the Framework for Biodiversity Assessment, that sits over it and which allows for rehabilitation and supplementary measures (page 1).

[xvi] There were no examples upland peat swamps impacted by longwall mining that have been remediated; and existing remediation techniques ‘are unproven and appear insufficient without the destruction of the surface environment.’ Commonwealth of Australia 2014, Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone: evaluation of mitigation and remediation techniques, Knowledge report; prepared by the Water Research Laboratory, University of New South Wales, for the Department of Environment, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 7.