Risk to drinking water too great for Dendrobium expansion to be approved

Published: September 17, 2019

South32 must not be permitted to put the Greater Sydney region’s water at further risk with its planned Dendrobium mine expansion, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

The deadline for the public submission period closes tomorrow (Wednesday September 18), and LTGA is calling on the community to have its say.

LTGA spokesperson Nic Clyde said there was concerning evidence South 32’s mining operations had already caused serious damage in the region which had led to loss of surface water.

“Late last year, it was revealed six billion litres of water had been diverted from creeks feeding Sydney water catchments into underground coal mines in the Special Areas,” Mr Clyde said.

“The amount of lost water was contained in an interim report examining damage to Sydney’s drinking water catchment by the Dendrobium and Metropolitan coal mines. 

“Now, South32 is predicting its annual surface water take will be in excess of 2.8GL/year from the proposed extension of longwall mining at Dendrobium, further diminishing Greater Sydney’s unique and precious drinking water supply.

“To put 2.8GL in perspective, that’s more than 5% of all of the water that flowed into the Upper Nepean Catchment in 2018/19, which supplies water to the Illawarra and to parts of Sydney.

“Back in March 2016, the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) knocked back a similar proposal, with a near identical predicted impact of up to  2.6GL/year by Wollongong Coal in the same Special Area of the catchment.

"This project proposed to use the same, damaging mining technique. At the time the PAC said it was ‘a high risk situation’.

“On top of that, WaterNSW is on the record saying the environmental damage from mining in the Special Areas of the drinking water catchment has been greater than predicted.” 

Mr Clyde said it would be irresponsible for South32’s expansion plan to be approved in its current form due to the increased water needs of a growing Greater Sydney and the increasing impact of hotter, drier conditions exacerbated by climate change.

“Climate change means more heat, more evaporation and dryer soils in the Greater Sydney Catchment,” he said.

“Together with an estimated extra 1.74 million people living in Greater Sydney by 2036, this will place unprecedented long-term pressure on our drinking water supply. 

“In this context, a new mine proposal inside the Special Area, that South32 itself predicts will take water that would otherwise flow to storage, is the wrong proposal in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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Content on this site is authorised by Georgina Woods for Lock the Gate Alliance, Lismore NSW.