Illawarra residents opposed to coal mining beneath the drinking water catchment and their supporters have labelled the revised Dendrobium coal mine expansion a “political stitch up” after the Independent Planning Commission’s earlier rejection of the project was overruled.
In response to the IPC’s rejection of the destructive project, the NSW Government took the unprecedented step of declaring the coal mine “state significant infrastructure”.
South32 has today released a revised Environmental Impact Statement for the project, which claims the mine’s direct impacts will be reduced, but shows the project would still threaten nationally significant upland swamps and the drinking water catchment relied on by Illawarra and Sydney residents.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Nic Clyde said a decision about the project would go straight to NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts without the transparent scrutiny that would occur if it were to return to the IPC for consideration.
“South32 could write that magical fairies will protect our drinking water and it wouldn’t matter because the assessment of this project is now a political decision, rather than assessment that undergoes a considered and transparent process by independent commissioners,” he said.
“This is the only coal mine in the state’s history that has been declared state significant infrastructure. This is a mine being assessed on a political basis, not a scientific one, and Sydney’s drinking water is not safe as a result.
“The NSW Government’s political intervention has removed the community’s objection rights and that’s outrageous and undemocratic.
“The IPC previously rejected South32’s claim that coal from Dendrobium was needed for the continuation of the Bluescope steelworks. This erroneous claim was the justification the NSW Government used to declare it state significant infrastructure, and is contrary to the findings made by the IPC.
“South32 still refuses to consider the less damaging bord and pillar method of mining, despite the IPC, NSW Government, and Wollongong Coal considering it an acceptable method just eight kilometres north at Russell Vale.
“As the saying goes, you can roll a turd in glitter, but it’s still a turd. South32’s revised Dendrobium proposal puts the security of Sydney’s drinking water catchment at risk and that stinks.”
Deidre Stuart, from Illawarra grass roots network fighting the Dendrobium extension Protect Our Water Catchment Incorporated, said, “Our group is already in the NSW Land and Environment Court defending the IPC refusal decision of the original expansion proposal. And now at the same time, the NSW Government has introduced a new, fast-track process for South32 to have its new proposal assessed, sidelining the IPC.
“We in the community operate in good faith and we feel utterly betrayed by our government over its handling of a coal mine expansion that was rightfully rejected by the IPC.
“What’s undeniable is that this proposal will still trash Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, drain upland swamps that are recognised as nationally significant, and threaten our drinking water.
“The Perrottet Government must not risk all this just so a private company can continue to mine coal in our drinking water catchment area.
“The Dendrobium expansion will be responsible for more than 87 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the world cannot afford to burn any more fossil fuels if humanity wants to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis.
“Our drinking water must be protected at all costs. It is more important than coal, and must be protected from any expansion of Dendrobium, particularly one that is not subject to the same degree of scrutiny as the former, already rejected proposal.”