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Issue #1792      August 30, 2017

Water catchments and twisted irony

The Lock the Gate Alliance says revelations that coal mining is reducing water availability in Sydney’s drinking water catchment must trigger urgent action from the NSW government to declare a moratorium on any further mining in the Special Areas of the catchment and review all current mining approvals.

The long-awaited audit of Sydney’s drinking water catchment was tabled in parliament two weeks ago, but its findings have only been brought to light today. The “Special Areas” are parts of the catchment supposed to be kept in a pristine state to protect the city’s drinking water: they are off-limits to the general public.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “We have long feared that there would be a cumulative impact on water flowing into Sydney’s dams from the extensive coal mining under the catchment that is cracking creeks and drawing precious water into longwall cavities.”

The 2016 Catchment Audit, tabled in parliament on August 8, warns that “The cumulative, and possibly accelerated, impact of mining on flow regimes in the Catchment is likely linked to the increased prevalence of the current longwall methods of underground mining.”

“It’s simply astounding that the government would be given a report that warns of a possibly accelerated loss of Sydney’s drinking water as a result of these coal mines and take no action. Urgent action is needed before we do damage to Sydney’s water supply that could last for centuries,” said Woods.

There are new proposals to further extend longwall coal mining under consideration, including expanding Dendrobium mine and the high risk Russell Vale mine and these must be stopped immediately. Discharge of saline polluted mine-water into the creeks that feed Sydney’s dams must also be stopped.

“The NSW Coalition is failing to uphold the election promise it made prior to coming to government six years ago to protect drinking water catchments from coal mining.

“There is no more time to dither: we need a moratorium on any further mining in Sydney’s Special Areas and a review of all current operations.”

Earlier this month people affected by the impacts of the NSW coal-mining industry held a protest rally outside the NSW Minerals Council’s “phoney” Health, Safety, Environment, and Community awards and conference at a Hunter Valley resort.

The rally sought to highlight the twisted irony of NSW mining companies awarding themselves for their impacts on “health, safety, environment, and community”, and called on the NSW government to introduce cumulative impact assessments for multiple mining proposals, which remains an unfulfilled Coalition pledge.

The rally heard from people around the Hunter who suffer the cumulative impacts of coal mining on families, communities, and the environment, including Anne Maree Maclaughlin from Bulga.

“It’s sickening that mining companies are giving themselves awards for community health, when they are the biggest contributors to air pollution in our region”, said Ms McLaughlin.

“People around here have to lock their kids inside some days, the air gets so bad. These companies close our roads, they keep us awake at night, they force people out of our community. And they’re giving themselves awards for this? They must be kidding!”

Carol Bennett of Gloucester spoke to the rally about the Rocky Hill project of Gloucester Resources Limited. “GGRL is a member of the Minerals Council, and the proponent of the Rocky Hill open cut coal mine barely a kilometre from residential areas of Gloucester,” said Ms Bennett.

“That mine would smother our town with air pollution, and cause sickness and death in our community. Are they going to give themselves an award for that?”

Rally organiser Bev Smiles said residents were calling on the state government to start properly assessing the cumulative impacts of multiple mining proposals.

“It’s been five years since the NSW government promised to ensure that the cumulative impacts of coal mining would be addressed – that mines wouldn’t just be considered one by one, but altogether, as they affect the people of the Hunter region who are surrounded by them”, said Ms Smiles.

“Since then more and more mine projects have spread across the Hunter, clearing the bush, choking the air and driving people from their homes. We are still waiting for them to deliver this cumulative impact assessment”, said Ms Smiles.

Ms Smiles’ community of Wollar is facing extinction by the expansion of Peabody Energy’s Wilpinjong mine near Mudgee. The mine has been nominated for an award in the “environment” category at the Minerals Council event, for completing legally-required rehabilitation.

The rally concluded with a “real awards” ceremony to recognise the harmful impacts of mining on communities and the environment, and the harmful influence of the mining lobby over public policy.

Next article – 457 rises Phoenix-like

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