Wollongong Coal is starting work today on its risky new longwall coal mine under Sydney's drinking water catchment ('Longwall 6'), according to an update to shareholders, despite concerns about its impact on Cataract Creek, and is pressing ahead with broader expansion plans that have the potential to do significant further damage to the catchment.
The company last week released an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Federal Government approval of its larger Russell Vale expansion project for eight new longwall mining panels under the catchment, despite the NSW Planning Assessment Commission sending the proposal back to the drawing board in March.
The proposed expansion project extends under the notification area for Cataract Dam, and the Independent Expert Scientific Committee has advised the NSW Government that it has ongoing concerns over the 'possible connectivity of the stored waters of cataract reservoir and the proposed mining.'
Furthermore, the EIS to the Federal Government seeks approval for an extra 35m of mining for Longwall 6 which was rejected by the Environment Minister Greg Hunt in December due to the risks it posed to Cataract Creek and the upland wetlands that filter and release water in the catchment.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods said, “Wollongong Coal start work today on a dangerous longwall mine under Sydney's drinking water catchment despite evidence that mining in the catchment puts at risk the quality and quantity of water coming into the dams.
“They are pushing to get Federal approval for their plans for eight new longwalls, despite a review by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission that made it very clear that their assessment was inadequate and more work was required before a decision could be made.
"Most shockingly, Wollongong Coal seems to have ignored advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee that their proposed Russell Vale expansion puts Cataract Reservoir at risk - a dam that is the water supply for large parts of Sydney.
"The company is even trying to sneak through approval to mine an extra 35m of Longwall 6, which was excluded from an approval by the Federal Government following advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.
"Wollongong Coal are recklessly putting the future of Sydney's drinking water at risk.
"We're calling on Minister Hunt to reject the proposed Russell Vale expansion due to the irreversible damage it could do to the drinking water catchment of Australia’s largest city," she said.