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Licence to spill: Perrottet Government legalizes coal mines' take of Sydney’s drinking water on eve of election

The Perrottet Government has quietly declared new rules just one week before caretaker mode which will enable coal mines to access water allocations set aside for drinking water for southern Sydney and Wollongong.

In the last few weeks the government has:

  1. Acknowledged that coal mines in the Special Areas of Sydney’s drinking water catchment are causing an uncontrollable loss of surface water.

  2. Enabled coal mines to access water allocations from the urban water licences that are set aside to provide drinking water to Wollongong and southern Sydney.

Scientific estimates suggest the cumulative impact of all existing coal mining activities in the region will mean about 450 billion litres of water is drained from the catchment area.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator Nic Clyde said, “It is alarming the NSW Perrottet Government has given coal companies special access to water allocations that are supposed to be set aside for urban water supply to Wollongong and southern Sydney.

“This is a cynical attempt by the NSW Perrottet Government, in the lead up to the election, that seeks to legitimise the illegal behaviour coal mining companies have been getting away with for years,” he said.

“After years of saying there would be no impact on water supply from these coal mines, the government has now been forced to admit uncontrollable losses of water, due to the cracking of creeks and rivers.

“However, instead of responding to this devastating risk to our future by urgently banning any further longwall coal mining in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, the government will instead provide water entitlements from urban water supplies to paper over the problem.

“Coal mines in the catchment have been effectively taking water unlawfully without proper water entitlements for years now, and this is the NSW Government rubber-stamping that behaviour and setting up a scheme so they can continue on unimpeded.

“The risk to our water supplies as we start to shift into an El Nino cycle is immense, and our precious urban water supplies shouldn’t be wasted on destructive coal mines."

Environmental consultant and former mining manager for Water NSW, Peter Dupen said, “The issue of unlicensed water takes was raised in 2019 when Dendrobium Mine applied for a further expansion beneath Sydney’s drinking water supply catchments.

“All water removed by mining companies, especially those in the Special Area catchments, should be reliably calculated and fairly compensated for the cost of replacing that amount of drinking water in a drying world,” he said.

“Wars are already being fought over water, and the value of clean water for Greater Sydney’s growing population must be recognised and protected.”


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