Conditional Dendrobium coal mine approval exposes Government nervousness over longwall mining under the drinking water catchment

Published: December 20, 2016

Lock the Gate Alliance says the Department of Planning’s restrictive approval to South32 to mine just two of the five longwall panels it was seeking permission for adjacent to the Avon Dam in Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water catchment is an indication that the Government knows very well the severe risks that longwall mining poses to Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

South32 had been seeking approval for five longwalls next to the Avon Dam and yesterday was granted an approval for just two of them that imposes height and length restrictions, but also requires the company to secure approval from the Dam Safety Committee, and notes that setback distances from the dam may be increased.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “The Government is clearly nervous about the damage these longwall mines are doing to Sydney’s drinking water catchment. This convoluted and piecemeal approval indicates to us that they know that the risks of irreversible long term damage are extremely high and that harm is inevitable.”

“The Department has failed to take the advice of its own expert that the longwall panels should be narrowed claiming it would not be economically feasible to do so. The Government has prioritised the financial interests of a mining company over the security of Sydney and the Illwarra’s drinking water.

“The complexity of the Government’s rules and restrictions that it is negotiating piecemeal with mining companies reveals an awareness about the long-term impact of coal mining in the drinking water catchment that should have all of us very worried.

“It should actually be very simple: if it isn’t 100% safe to mine for coal in our drinking water catchment, then mining should be banned there immediately.”

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