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Win for water after IPC rejects draining Dendrobium disaster

Today’s Independent Planning Commission decision to reject the destructive and draining Dendrobium coal mine extension is a win for common sense, according to Lock the Gate Alliance and Illawarra locals concerned about the impact of mining on the catchment.

The extension of the South32 owned Dendrobium mine would have drained 7-8 billion litres of drinking water from the Illawarra-Sydney catchment area each year, and destroyed fragile wetlands sitting above the site.

It would have also been responsible for roughly 256 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPC found the proposal was unacceptable due to:

  • uncertainty over the scale of impacts to catchment, 

  • The threat to 47 upland swamps above the longwalls, 

  • A lack of certainty over claims Bluescope was dependent on the project given mine, plan timing information supplied by South32, 

  • Considerable risk of irreversible damage to 58 identified Aboriginal heritage sites, 

  • The significant greenhouse emissions that would be produced.

Ultimately, the Commission noted South32 had not appropriately addressed concerns in relation to the proposed mine design.

Government agencies WaterNSW and the Independent Advisory Panel on Underground Mining (IAPUM) were also both scathing in their assessment of South32’s proposal in the lead up to the decision, and raised fears water loss from the catchment area due to the expansion would likely continue in perpetuity. 

“We are absolutely over the moon that the IPC has seen reason and rejected this monstrous expansion,” Protect Our Water Alliance spokesperson Deidre Stuart said.

“The Sydney-Illawarra region is the only place in the world where longwall coal mining is permitted under the public water catchment of a major city.

“While we remain disappointed the IPC has recently approved other coal mining projects beneath the catchment, today’s decision at least, is a relief. 

“Clearly, the scale of the destruction Dendrobium would have caused to the catchment was enough to finally make the IPC see reason.”

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Nic Clyde too welcomed the IPC’s decision.

“South32 bullishly refused to even listen to experts who suggested alterations to its destructive mine proposal to make it less damaging, and the company has paid the price as a result," he said.

“South32 put the regional economy of the Illawarra in jeopardy by pushing ahead with a proposal that was clearly unacceptable.

“The IPC hasn’t always sided with the public interest of late, but in this case at least, it has made the right decision.

“What we need from Premier Berejiklian and her Planning Minister Rob Stokes is sensible policy to protect the catchment from mining projects like this, so the community doesn’t have to go through the conflict and uncertainty that results from weak environmental policy.”

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