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Moratorium needed as experts find rainfall in Sydney’s catchment is being lost to coal mines

A long-awaited technical report into the impacts of the controversial Dendrobium underground coal mine in the Metropolitan Special Area of Sydney’s drinking water catchment has been released, prompting calls for a moratorium on any further mining in the area and stricter controls on existing mines.

Following media revelations in July 2015, the Department of Planning commissioned consultants Pells Sullivan and Meynink (PSM) to investigate the degree and extent of cracking and fracturing resulting from longwall extractions in Areas 1, 2, 3A and 3B of South32’s extensive Dendrobium coal mine.

The PSM report confirms seam to surface connected fracturing, groundwater diversion and drainage, landscape slippage and valley bulging causing fracture pathways for leakage from below the reservoirs. Following completion of the review reports in February, the PSM report was finished in March.

National Parks Association NSW mining projects spokesperson Peter Turner said, “Given the gravity of the findings, it’s very hard to imagine how the Department could credibly justify its withholding of these reports from WaterNSW, the OEH and community for so long. Presumably it did so with the approval of the Minister.”

With two new longwalls provisionally approved for Area 3B in December 2016, South32 is expected to soon submit plans for more in this already badly damaged part of the catchment. The company has also lodged preliminary plans for significant further expansion into Area 3C, a still-pristine part of the catchment of the Avon and Cordeaux reservoirs in southern Sydney.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “This report reveals that precious rainfall that should be feeding Sydney's dams and drinking water supply is being drawn into the polluting mining voids beneath the surface.

“It is unacceptable that the management actions implemented for this mine have failed to prevent damage and failed to protect Sydney's drinking water.”

“The Premier must commit that the planned longwall coal panels will not proceed. We need a moratorium on any further mining operations in the catchment and a full Inquiry into the impacts of the Southern Coalfields on our water resources.”

The report, reviews and summaries are available here.

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