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Great Artesian Basin at risk as Perrottet Government approves new coal exploration

As many as 182 waterbores used by farmers, a recharge zone of the Great Artesian Basin, and important natural areas that form part of the Pilliga Forest could be put at risk if Whitehaven is allowed to develop or expand coal mines in a new release area near Narrabri.

The findings are drawn from an analysis conducted by Lock the Gate Alliance using new state of the art mapping technology.

Late last week the Perrottet Government approved two Whitehaven exploration licence applications within the release area, which covers nearly 17,000ha and is known as “Gorman North”. It was part of then Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s host of ”strategic” release areas around the state identified for coal exploration in 2020.

The mapping analysis reveals if Whitehaven builds coal mines in the area, it would threaten:

  • Part of the recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin

  • Several creek systems that flow into the Namoi River and areas of alluvial aquifers on the Namoi River floodplain used for irrigation 

  • 182 waterbores used for general water supply, irrigation, or stock and domestic.

  • A formally listed Aboriginal Heritage site

  • 12 threatened species including three endangered species - the Black-striped Wallaby, Koala, and Five-clawed Worm-skink

  • 13,502.5 ha of native vegetation in the north eastern section of the Pilliga Forest including four four threatened ecological communities

Unlike other parts of the state that were released under the strategic coal release scheme like Rylstone, there has been no public consultation or Preliminary Regional Impact Assessment in relation to Gorman North.

The decision to grant Whitehaven the exploration licences comes after NSW Farmers recently passed a motion at its annual conference calling for the Association to lobby the NSW Government to prevent any further coal exploration or mining activity in the Great Artesian Basin region.

Local farmer Andrew Mullins, who brought the motion to the conference and whose property is partially covered by the Gorman North area, said he was seriously concerned about the impact coal mining in the area could have on the Great Artesian Basin.

“The effect of this is far beyond the area that is within Gorman North - you’re talking about mining through aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin, you’re talking about the depressurisation of the basin,” he said.

“This will be an immediate problem for those living within Whitehaven exploration areas due to potential contamination, but it will be a bigger problem for groundwater and farming impacts if coal mining gets underway.”

Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said the “Gorman North” area should never have been made available for coal mining.

“This new mapping analysis shows that the Gorman North strategic release area identified for future coal mining is needed instead for farming, biodiversity, and for people.

“I’ve had calls from people who have inadvertently moved into that area seeking a peaceful country life. They had no idea they were signing on for a new coalfield next to them and now they don’t know where that leaves their investments and plans.

“It’s incredibly disappointing the Perrottet Government has granted Whitehaven these exploration licences. Perhaps they wanted to get them through before the crowning of a new King who is aware of the climate catastrophe that new fossil fuel projects are causing.

“It’s also hard to understand why new coal release areas in other regions were put out for a proper impact assessment and community consultation, but this release area near Narrabri has been granted to Whitehaven directly without that work being done and without many of the locals knowing.”


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  • Artzy Audz
    commented 2022-09-16 03:16:45 +1000
    No public consultation….that’s sneaky. Contaminating the great artesian basin aquifer is deadly 💀 for the present day and future time. Coal mining damages forever irreversible impacts! STOP THIS DESTRUCTIVE PRACTICE NOW.