Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Springvale Mine Extension Proposal - mine effluent will poison the Coxs River

Springvale generates more mine effluent than the PAC assessed

The Department of Planning and Environment has folded to Lithgow Council demands and this afternoon recommended immediate approval of the Springvale mine to the Planning Assessment Commission. The PAC still should call another public hearing on this proposal. Lithgow Council and Centennial Coal are opposed to this, and held public meeting this morning, 14 August, 2015 to urge immediate approval. It took less than five hours for the Department to relent to this orchestrated exercise. The Federal Environment Department may be less of a push over, and it determines the proposed swamp abuse and these discharges to the World Heritage Area.

The important fact Centennial does not want Sydney residents to know regarding its water discharges from this mine proposal is that the worst case considered by the PAC was just 40% of the capacity of the discharge system for which Centennial Coal is seeking approval.  

  • Centennial Coal reported to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) that 19 megalitres a day of mine effluent would be the maximum discharge from the proposed mine-extension (see PAC page18 below).  This daily discharge volume is only a part of the cumulative discharge from this mine and the Angus Place mine.
  • Springvale mine discharges 23 megalitres a day now.  As a result, the PAC assessment is exceeded by 4 megalitres a day.
  • The EIS for Centennial Coal’s proposed Springvale mine-extension proposes duplication of the effluent discharge infrastructure and this mine infrastructure could discharge 50 megalitres of effluent a day to the Coxs River (page 162 and figure 4.1, page 155 of EIS, 2014). 
  • The current effluent discharge is double the medial Coxs River flows of 12.2 megalitres a day at the point where the discharge enters the river - so there is no effective dilution of the effluent by the river.

Either the proposed mine effluent duplication is unnecessary and can be removed from the draft consent; or, more likely, Centennial has apparently misled the PAC. 

If 19Ml/day will increase the salinity of Sydney's main water supply by 6% as the PAC reports, then the 50ML/day facility that Centennial's wants approval for will increase salinity by more than 15%. On top of this is a plan by Centennial to transfer the toxic discharges from Clarence Mine to Springvale, adding up to another 25ML/day.

The Coxs River is set to become a toxic saline drain for Centennial Coal's mine effluent (Photo: D. Noble)

  • The proposed new mine effluent pipeline would go through and damage three Endangered Ecological Communities.
  • The existing mine effluent transfer pipeline follows a different route, so the new route would unecessarily increase environmental damage to Newnes Plateau.

Proposals to shut down the mine and the power plant are not realistic today, as a transition plan is needed. But major decision making failures by the Department of Environment and Planning made today can only accelerate the demise of coal-based energy generation in NSW in the near future. The thought of living with coal is becoming unbearable for most reasonable people.

Solutions

The PAC should be developing workable solutions to Centennial's neglected 'pollution mess' that it plans to make of World Heritage rivers. Yet Centennial does not want solutions, it just wants development approvals. 

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness supports the transfer of Clarence Mine effluent to Springvale, on the basis that reducing two major water pollution problems to one larger problem. Doing so would allow the Wollangambe River to be restored to a pristine state.

Springvale effluent should be effectively treated and then purchased by Mt Piper Power Plant to ensure ‘water security’ at the plant that uses 40ML/day. By gaining water security for the plant, the cost of an adequate Reverse Osmosis water treatment plant at the mine could be partly offset. This is one solution that the PAC should consider.

Centennial and Lithgow Council's hysterical beat up and pending worker lock out is intended to avoid effecitve problem solving, that should have been  a part of the original development application. The allegations of delay in development approvals is all of Centennial's making and the company's abysmal failure to develop ways to protect the beautiful natural environment within which it operates. So today's knee-jerk reaction to the Centennial-Lithgow Council protest help to deny the development of effective solutions to this major water pollution problem.