The NSW Government’s recommendation that Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale extension be granted is proof the assessment process in the state is utterly broken, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.
“Wollongong Coal is likely insolvent, it has lost more than a billion dollars over the last seven years, its Wongawilli mine was shut down over safety fears, and yet the Planning Department wants to trust this basket case of a company with our precious drinking water,” said Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde.
“In fact, Wollongong Coal has so little money, it recently applied to be de-listed from the ASX, and is expected to be de-listed this Friday at 2.30pm, meaning there will be even less opportunity for the public to scrutinise this company and its activities.
“Wollongong Coal also has a multibillion dollar debt problem, and would struggle to financially cover the estimated $215M rehabilitation cost of their existing mine site at Russell Vale.
“It is madness that the Planning Department is entrusting this broken, financially distressed company to mine underneath the Special Area of our drinking water catchment.
“Wollongong Coal is a train-wreck of a company that should have been stripped of its right to mine coal in NSW years ago. It is grossly irresponsible for the government to recommend in favour of this expansion beneath Sydney and the Illawarra’s dams.
“This announcement also comes just months after a coalition of more than 20 scientists and academics called on the Berejiklian Government to put an end to all coal mining in the Sydney drinking water catchment area, due to “disappearing creeks, bulging valleys, a shifting dam wall, and a lack of monitoring”.
In an open letter, the scientists raised concerns Sydney’s dams were losing up to 25 million litres of water a day because of subsidence and diversions caused by underground mining.
“Continued mining in the Special Areas creates complex, long-term problems in an area that’s meant to be set aside to protect our drinking water,” Mr Clyde said.
On 1 June 2017, the Minister for Resources - Don Harwin - informed the NSW Parliament about court action in India against the majority owners of Wollongong Coal. Lock the Gate understands these matters are yet to be resolved: “On 29 April it was announced that Jindal Steel and Power Limited [JSPL], and one of its directors had been investigated by India's Central Bureau of Investigation on potential criminal corruption charges. The courts in India decided that there was sufficient evidence for a case to be brought to trial.”
Current auditors UHY Haines Norton noted in March 2020 that Wollongong Coal’s “current liabilities exceeded its current assets by $1,089,243,000”.