A controversial coal-mining proposal at Russell Vale near Wollongong is unlikely to proceed following today’s damning review report by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), but a final decision is still required before the fate of the project is known.
The PAC concluded that:
“On the basis of the information provided, the Commission is of the view that the social and economic benefits of the project as currently proposed are most likely outweighed by the magnitude of impacts to the environment”.
"The Commission finds that it is not satisfied that the project is consistent with the State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2001 that it would have a neutral or beneficial effect on water quality in the catchment area. The magnitude of water loss is uncertain with the projected range from the proponent and Water NSW varying from minimal to 2.6GL/year. The Commission considers this is a high risk situation."
The report was released just as Indian community campaigner and prestigious Goldman Prize winner, Ramesh Agrawal, arrives in Australia to explain his experience with the parent company behind the mine, and its’ shocking history of environmental and social impacts in India.
Gavin Workman, from Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining, stated that “On behalf of affected communities in the Illawarra and everyone in Sydney who drinks quality water from the Cataract Dam, we are enormously relieved that the PAC has identified this project as ‘high risk’.
“We are also frustrated that we have had to spend so much of our time and scarce community resources fighting this project, when the government itself should long ago have taken action to protect the Special Areas of our water catchment”.
“It is crucial that the NSW Government now moves quickly to end the uncertainty and stress for our community. There is still one final decision to be made on this project, and we hope that process will happen quickly and the project will be rejected once and for all” he said.
Nic Clyde, a spokesperson from Lock the Gate Alliance, stated that “The big question remains why the Special Areas of our catchment have been put at risk in this way in the first place. It’s high time the NSW Government changed the planning law to provide proper upfront protections for our drinking water supply” he said.
Wollongong Coal has been trying to get approval now for years to expand it’s coal mining underneath the water catchment for Cataract Dam. WaterNSW has been just one of many critics of the project, revealing that the plan to mine coal in what it describes as an “essential part of Sydney's drinking water supply system” would cost $22.1M in lost drinking water against revenue for NSW taxpayers of up to $23M in royalty income.
WaterNSW costed the loss of drinking water at $22.1M over the first 25 years, with losses continuing “to occur after mining ceases.” WaterNSW has suggested that the maximum impacts were “predicted to occur in the time frame of approximately 50 to 100 years after mining and are predicted to persist for centuries.”