Lock the Gate Alliance has urged caution following today’s release of the Environmental Impact Statement for an expansion of the Dendrobium coal mine due to the potential harm the project could inflict on the drinking water supply for greater Sydney.
Late last year, it was revealed six billion litres of water had been diverted from creeks feeding Sydney water catchments into underground coal mines in the Special Areas.
The amount of lost water was contained in an interim report examining damage to Sydney’s drinking water catchment by the Dendrobium and Metropolitan coal mines. The Environmental Impact Statement released for the Dendrobium Extension Project admits that further water will be lost from the catchment as a result of the mine expansion.
LTGA spokesperson Nic Clyde said while the economic significance of the mine to the Illawarra was real, drinking water for a region of more than five million people should not be put at further risk.
The Independent Expert Panel for Mining is due to hand down a report on damage caused by mining in the drinking catchment on 12 August. Mr Clyde said those findings must be immediately made public so they could be considered in the Dendrobium assessment process and the public making submissions.
“Lock the Gate is calling on NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes to make a commitment to release the Independent Panel report as soon as he receives it. He must enable the community to digest the Panel’s findings prior to lodging submissions on Dendrobium,” Mr Clyde said.
“WaterNSW is on the record saying that the environmental damage from mining in the Special Areas of the drinking water catchment has been greater than predicted.
“These lessons must be learned before the further expansion of coal mining does irreversible harm.”
Mr Clyde said damage caused by Dendrobium to the water catchment so far should also be taken into account by authorities assessing its latest planned expansion.
“The mine has already notoriously inflicted far greater environmental damage to the catchment than anticipated when it was approved in 2001,” he said.
“The longwalls they're proposing now are setback 1km from the dam walls of two major storages, Avon and Cordeaux reservoirs, but only 300m from the full supply level of Cordeaux.
“The more than five million residents who live in the Greater Sydney region are under Stage 1 water restrictions due to the drought. Clearly, we need to be extremely careful with every drop in the catchments.”