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Berejiklian Government must not bow to South32’s bullish behaviour

The Berejiklian government must not capitulate to bullish rhetoric and highly misleading claims from South32, which is threatening to go to court to overturn an independent planning decision that rejected the coal mining company’s damaging Dendrobium extension.

NSW’s Independent Planning Commission recently found the extension would have unacceptable impacts on Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water catchment.

The company is now flatly refusing to consider the less damaging bord and pillar mining method, and has indicated it will ask the court to overturn the Independent Planning Commission’s decision if it can’t get assurance from the Berejiklian Government that a new damaging longwall proposal will be quickly approved, regardless of its environmental impact. 

The company’s boss Graham Kerr this week embarked on a media blitz, and has made a series of highly misleading claims in an attempt to pressure the Berejiklian Government into approving its damaging and draining coal mine extension beneath the water catchment.

“We sincerely hope the Berejiklian Government sees this recent campaign by South32 for what it is - blatant political pressure to push a horrendous and damaging coal mine extension beneath our precious water supply,” said Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde.

“Water security and environmental integrity of the catchment must be safeguarded. South32 has demonstrated these are not its priorities. It's imperative that the Berejiklian Government protect the catchment.

“South 32's insistence on longwall mining is contrary to the interests of safe and secure water supplies. Those facts can't be changed by political pressure.

“Let’s be real here - South32’s motivation is profit and by refusing to consider less damaging mining methods, it is pursuing that profit at the expense of Sydney and the Illawarra’s water supply and its own workforce.”

Mr Clyde also took aim at the company’s oft repeated claim that Bluescope’s Port Kembla steelworks depend on coal from Dendrobium.

“There is no hard evidence to support this claim,” he said.

“In fact, the NSW Independent Planning Commission found the opposite during its assessment of Dendrobium, stating it ‘does not accept the suggested dependence of BlueScope Steelworks on ongoing access to the Wongawilli Seam coal from this Project’.

“The IPC also discovered that even with an approval South32 was not planning to mine the coal that South32 suggested was integral to BlueScope’s future until 2043.

“Lock the Gate Alliance would like to see no new mining beneath our water catchment. We’re convinced that a secure supply of metallurgical coal can be found for BlueScope at existing mines outside the Special Areas. We don’t need another coal mine built on false pretences.

“If South32 wants to put another mine proposal forward, it should drop the spin and start having an honest conversation with the community and the NSW Government.”


  • NSW DPIE, Cadence Economics, and Wollongong Coal all found bord and pillar mining was possible and profitable at the nearby Russell Vale colliery.

  • The Government’s own advisory panel warned that further longwall mining of the type proposed by South32 will likely cause water loss in perpetuity.

  • WaterNSW argued South32’s original proposal “was likely to have unprecedented impacts on the catchment”.

  • The agency also said the original proposal would lead to increased surface water drainage, environmental damage, and could threaten existing water supply infrastructure.

  • The State Planning Department found that Illawarra Metallurgical Coal was “highly profitable in FY19” with underlying earnings before income tax (EBIT) of US$359 million on sales revenue of US$1.135 billion.

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