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Woeful Wollongong Coal’s scaled back expansion should still be rejected

Wollongong Coal's announcement it plans to scale back its planned expansion at Russell Vale will do little to restore confidence in the dodgy mining company given its multiple scandals and mishandling of operations, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

LTGA NSW coordinator Georgina Woods said the company’s woeful recent history was evidence it was unfit to operate.

“It’s good to see the company reduce the scale of plans for mining in catchment areas, but the fact remains this company has an appalling record ranging from health and safety failures to environmental damage,” she said.

“The new plan still proposes to mine underneath seams that have already been mined with longwall machines. The company has very little money and is still under investigation as to whether it is a 'fit and proper person' to mine in NSW.

“We are calling for the NSW Government to complete its ‘fit and proper’ investigation before it even considers this latest proposal, given the fact the revised proposal will be conducted entirely within the 1.5km ‘dam safety notification area’ for Cataract reservoir.

“There is simply too much at stake with mining in this sensitive location and we shouldn’t be allowing a rogue operator loose in our water catchments.”

The announcement follows fresh reports decrying the state of streams which flow to Sydney’s drinking water reservoirs that have been impacted by mining underneath the Special Catchment Area.

The new proposal also comes more than three years after the NSW Planning Commission conducted a review heavily critical of the larger high risk longwall operation proposed by Wollongong Coal at the Russell Vale site.

The company has also been fined multiple times for causing pollution, including coal spills into nearby Bellambi Creek. 

As well, Wollongong Coal’s nearby Wongawilli mine was put into care and maintenance after longwall mining equipment became buried during a roof collapse in March 2014. The mine started up again, only to be hit with a stop work order by the Resources Regulator in March this year.

Meanwhile in India, criminal conspiracy charges have been brought against Naveen Jindal, whose Jindal Steel and Power conglomerate is the majority owner of Wollongong Coal.

The trial is scheduled to commence on 30 September and will hear charges that Jindal Steel and Power engaged in a criminal conspiracy relating to the company's coal business in India.

Wollongong Coal is also suspended from trading on the ASX because ASIC raised questions about the reliability of the company’s valuation of its mining assets.

“These are all substantial reasons why this dodgy company should not be allowed to expand its operations underneath the Sydney drinking water catchment,” Ms Woods said.

“Clearly, Wollongong Coal has not conducted itself in a way that deserves any public confidence in its ability to expand in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.”

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