Lock the Gate Alliance has accused Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley of putting the health of children at risk by approving a polluting coal mine extension that will threaten Greater Sydney’s drinking water and will be operated by a company in an extremely shoddy financial situation.
In her first approval of a coal mine since the Federal Court found she had a “duty of care” to protect Australian children from climate change harms when exercising her powers, the Minister has approved Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale expansion, located in the Illawarra.
The mine would produce atleast 11 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Bizarrely, in her statement of reasons, Minister Ley claimed, “that a decision to refuse the proposed action is likely to have no impact on total GHG emissions”.
Fears are also held over how this coal mine will impact fragile coastal upland swamp ecosystems within the catchment area, several which have suffered tremendously from underground mining beneath the Illawarra escarpment.
Wollongong Coal has also previously repeatedly polluted the nearby Bellambi Creek.
As well, Wollongong Coal’s troubled financial position means if something were to go wrong at the mine, the company may struggle to pay to clean up the site - it has debts exceeding $1 billion, and last year applied to be delisted from the ASX because it couldn’t pay the fees.
“This is a terrible decision for Australian children, for the environment, and for more than five million people who rely on drinking water in the Greater Sydney catchment area,” said Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde.
“It’s astonishing to see the Minister shrug off her duty to protect the health of children in order to do the bidding of the coal barons.
“She approved this mine even while acknowledging that the Federal Court found ‘there was a real risk that even an infinitesimal increase in global average surface temperature may trigger a tipping point or a 4°C Future World’.”
“Sussan Ley has knowingly subjected Australian children to catastrophic climate risks.
“Wollongong Coal’s dire financial situation and rotten environmental history were grounds enough to reject this project - but instead Sussan Ley has rolled out the red carpet for this company.
“Greater Sydney is the only large metropolis in the world where coal mining is allowed beneath its drinking water catchment. Instead of approving this mine, we should be looking at how we can better prepare for a future where coal is no longer needed.”