Mining under our water catchment?

Illawarra Residents say

NO

to Wollongong Coal’s expansion project

About IRRM

Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining is a community group that formed in 2011 to oppose the expansion of the Gujarat NRE No. 1 Colliery in Russell Vale (now named Wollongong Coal Ltd’s Russell Vale Colliery) in NSW, Australia.  We advocate for responsibility in mining, mining which puts the health and well-being of ordinary people and of the environment ahead of corporate mining interests.

About Wollongong Coal

Wollongong Coal wants to expand coal mining in our drinking water catchment, but the company has a record of financial weakness, technical incapacity and frequent breaches of the conditions of its mining licence.

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About the expansion

Wollongong Coal plans to expand the Russell Vale mine, mining a third seam of coal beneath two previously mined coal seams up to the shores of the Cataract Reservoir. The area above this mining is unstable, riddled with – and still moving as a result of – previous mining.  And while in recent times coal was trucked out of the Russell Vale Colliery, Wollongong Coal now plans to process the coal on site in the densely populated residential area.

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WOLLONGONG COAL IS COMING UP WITH ANOTHER PLAN

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The “Special Areas” of Greater Sydney’s water catchment are riddled with coal mines and Rob Stokes’ Dept of Planning keeps entertaining more expansion proposals, including Russell Vale’s latest three tier mining proposal. This is a great summary of the Independent Panel on Mining in the Catchment ‘s final report from Sutherland Shire Environment Centre.The image here shows completed and proposed longwall coal mines under catchment areas that supply 29% of Sydney’s drinking water. It's from a report just released by an 'Independent Expert Panel' looking into mining in our catchment. Our catchment ‘Special Areas’ are supposed to be pristine, the water filtered naturally through rivulets, streams and swamps.

The Report has no pictures of the damage caused by mining in the catchment, not one.

The damage occurring to these areas is happening out of sight. At Woronora, it seems the only people allowed into the catchment on a regular basis work at Peabody's Metropolitan mine – the company responsible for doing the damage in the first place.

The Report supports mining being allowed to continue, despite identifying various concerns. These include -

1. the ‘𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬’. The Report states there is a limited understanding of the extent to which water is entering old mine workings. It states this 𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭.

2. 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐛𝐲 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞.

3. 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐮𝐛𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐮𝐧𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞.

4. 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐬 '𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐭𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬’.

5. The report states that 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐜𝐚𝐧 ‘𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐬’ and this ‘needs increased attention in mining proposals, especially in the Special Areas where the 𝐜𝐮𝐦𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐨𝐢𝐫 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲.’

6. The report notes the likely potential for ‘𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐩𝐞𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐥 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐬’ through entrances to mines that have not been ‘properly sealed.’ This water is likely to be 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝. Water coming out from old mine entrances could ‘𝐫𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐩𝐞𝐭𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐲.’ i.e. forever.

7. The Report states there is ‘little understanding’ of the extent swamps contribute to the catchment - the impact mining has had on the swamps which filter and clean our drinking water is not fully understood. At the same time the Report states 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐰𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐬𝐰𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐬 ‘𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐰𝐚𝐦𝐩 𝐡𝐲𝐝𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐫𝐮𝐧𝐨𝐟𝐟, which the Panel considers are 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐢𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞’.

8. The report says 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 ‘𝐒𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐀𝐫𝐞𝐚’ 𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 - ‘Remediation should not be relied upon for features, including watercourses and swamps, that are highly significant...’ 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐮𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐰𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐬 𝐢𝐬 ‘𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐝’.

9. The report also mentions the possibility of ‘𝐨𝐟𝐟𝐬𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 for the consequences of negative environmental impacts’ in relation to such damage. In other words it suggests the government could 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐚𝐲𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐢𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐒𝐲𝐝𝐧𝐞𝐲'𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐰𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐜𝐨𝐚𝐥 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠.

We reject the Independent Expert Panel’s recommendations for increased monitoring of increasing damage, and the prospect of payment for that damage. This is a business-as-usual proposal that will provide no benefit except further employment of consultants recommending such reports.

Damage to the catchment is permanent. Our water supply is too important to hand over to mining companies to despoil.
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