WaterNSW puts its foot down over further coal mining in Sydney’s catchment: says risks are “unacceptable”

Published: April 28, 2016

The biggest water supplier in New South Wales has warned that expansion of an underground coal mine inside a Special Area of Sydney's drinking water catchment poses an “unacceptable” risk to Sydney’s water supply. 

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WaterNSW, the agency that manages Sydney’s drinking water, is highly critical of plans to expand Illawarra Coal’s Dendrobium mine because of the drinking water it may take and the damage that previous longwalling has done to a creek in the area and the upland swamps that filter and release Sydney’s drinking water into dam storages.

“This situation is likely to eventually result in unacceptable impacts to the Greater Sydney region's drinking water supply and associated catchments,” it says in the submission.

The agency says in the submission that it is “surprised and disturbed” that the implications of greater-than-predicted impacts on one creek from the existing mining in the area were not discussed in the documentation supporting the expansion application.

The submission also states that, “it appears that mine subsidence from the first three longwalls in Area 3B is causing the diversion of significant volumes of surface flows into deeper aquifers and out of the surface storages used to support Sydney's drinking water supplies.”

Georgina Woods from the Lock the Gate Alliance said, “Sydney is lucky it has an agency like WaterNSW that will put its foot down and oppose longwall coal mining in the catchment when it is clear the risks are too high."

"This is the second time this month that WaterNSW has described the impact of coal mining in the water catchment as “unacceptable.” Earlier this month, WaterNSW’s critique of Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale expansion in the same Special Area, was included in a scathing review of the proposal by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). The PAC’s review of Russell Vale prompted analysis from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis that this mine is now a ‘stranded asset’.

“This objection can’t be overlooked and swept aside. Our drinking water is already being lost to this mine, and it is poor planning regulation that is to blame,” Ms Woods said.

Julie Sheppard, from Protect Sydney’s Water Alliance said, “The ball is in the Department of Planning’s court, now. They’ve got to reject this proposal for more longwalls at Dendrobium and bring forward new laws to prevent any further coal mining in Sydney’s drinking water catchment.” 

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