Coal mine approval recommendation condemned

Published: May 21, 2020

Lock the Gate Alliance is outraged the NSW Planning Department has recommended the destructive Vickery coal mine project be approved, and says the government has dismissed serious problems with the proposal.

Lock the Gate Alliance is outraged the NSW Planning Department has recommended the destructive Vickery coal mine project be approved, and says the government has dismissed serious problems with the proposal.

“There are major concerns the mine could run out of water. Coal mining is already competing with agriculture for water in this district and building another huge coal mine there will be a big mistake,” Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said.

“The department has also admitted there are concerns a large mine spoil pile could contaminate the Namoi alluvial aquifer.”

The department yesterday provided its Final Assessment Report on the project to the Independent Planning Commission, which has been given just 12 weeks to make a decision on the mine.

That’s despite serious problems and objections raised by the surrounding community, the Independent Planning Commission, and experts about the proposal’s impact on underground and surface water, social upheaval due to the large number of coal mines already operating in the area, and likely damage to Dorathea Mackellar’s famous homestead “Kurrumbede” - said to have inspired the poem “My Country”.

“We’re shocked that the Department thinks this new coal mine should be approved even while admitting that in dry times there won’t be enough water in the Namoi district to supply it,” Ms Woods said.

“It’s bitterly disappointing the Planning Department has ignored advice on the water contamination risks from the plan to put polluting coal mine spoil atop a critical local aquifer.  

“The local farming community and Narrabri Council have strenuously objected to the further erosion of the social fabric of Boggabri by this coal mine, but the Department of Planning has ignored these concerns. 

“It’s up to the Independent Planning Commission to uphold the public interest and stop this new Whitehaven coal mine which will short-change future generations and come at the expense of the farming community of Boggabri.”

Problems with the mine include:

  • An acknowledgement by the department that there might not be enough water to run the mine in prolonged periods of dry conditions. Whitehaven’s nearby Maules Creek coal mine has had difficulty sourcing water, has been found to have taken water unlawfully and has come into conflict with farmers in the region over the mine’s water demand.

  • Serious social damage already inflicted by open-cut coal mining in the primarily agricultural district of Boggabri will be intensified by the mine, which will include some fly-in fly-out and drive-in drive-out workers. Narrabri Council is objecting to the coal mine because of its social impacts.

  • Whitehaven’s proposal to put a mine spoil pile on top of an alluvial aquifer has been objected to by the department’s own water agency, with concerns it will lead to contamination of the aquifer as water seeps through acidic and saline spoil, carrying metals and contaminants into the aquifer below.

  • Whitehaven is relying on global coal demand projections that assume the world will fail to meet the Paris climate agreement goals and avoid catastrophic climate change, and the department has relegated its meagre consideration of intergenerational equity to an appendix.

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Content on this site is authorised by Georgina Woods for Lock the Gate Alliance, Lismore NSW.