Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Mining Inquiry reveals our catchments at risk - the Iemma Gov't must act

“The Iemma Government needs to be held directly accountable for mining in the Southern Coalfield, which is in Sydney's most productive water supply catchments. Evidence released yesterday from the Southern Coalfield Inquiry reveals that Government agencies are reluctant to impose stronger mining regulation to protect these catchments,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“It will be impossible to stop damage to water supplies if the five mining proposals now in the pipeline are approved without mandatory protection for catchment areas. The Government agencies proposal for a more flexible regulatory framework will enable the coal miners to operate in a business as usual manner,” he said.

“Government accountability for the catchment damage has been somehow lacking, despite Sydney's water security being of paramount importance,” Mr Muir said.

“The visible damage to the catchment is bad enough to make protection of our water supply catchments and infrastructure mandatory, today,” he said.

“The Inquiry evidence reveals a Departmental joint position of adaptive management, which will give their political masters wriggle room. Adaptive management, however, is not going to protect water supplies in a climate changing world. Catchments have to be preserved at the cost of coal production. It isn't a question of costs to the economy, Sydney just can't drink coal,” Mr Muir said.

“It is alarming that the Sydney Catchment Authority has specifically rejected mandatory protection of streams and swamps after all the damage to its catchment. The Authority seems incapable of monitoring or regulating coal mining. It has relied on environment groups to find its damaged creeks,” Mr Muir said.

“The Environment Protection Authority Board, on the other hand, has called strong mandatory protection for catchments. The Board recognises that water supplies are an essential public asset,“ Mr Muir said.

“The cracks in dry river beds and dead, eroded swamps are there to see. This evidence is on the Department of Planning's website. There is enough evidence to justify the call for mandatory protection controls to preserve water supply catchments. We must forego a bit of coal production to ensure the security of water supply,” Mr Muir said.

For more information contact Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)