Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Mining Chief's argument on Catchments ain't what its cracked up to be

“Dr Nikki Williams, the NSW Minerals Council Chief Executive says “there's been no loss of water quality[i]” but the Sydney Catchment Authority[ii] disagrees. Her mining company experts say that there's no loss of water but the EPA Board says ‘there is significant evidence of the impacts resulting from current operations in the Southern Coalfields … that has been well documented[iii].'  It seems that there are more than a few cracks in Dr Williams argument,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The Department of Environment and Climate Change has reported ‘nine sites of known impact damage'[iv], including four destroyed swamps in the water supply catchments,” Mr Muir said.  “How much site-specific damage is needed for action to be taken?”, Mr Muir asked.

“It is a certainty that the destruction of swamps and damage to near-surface groundwater aquifers are causing losses to stream base flows during dry weather in the water supply catchment,” he said.

“Current mine regulation is failing to protect our irreplaceable drinking water catchments that supply five key dams with water.  Catchment protection is not taking precedence over coal production.  Instead, the mining industry regulation has been weakened over recent years so as to increase coal production using increasingly intense longwall mining methods”, he said.

“There is so much talk about sustainability these days but reality has come home to roost right in Sydney's backyard.  It is hard to accept that the coal mining industry could be allowed damage the security of the State by damaging water supply catchments, but it is true.  The coal miners must take less coal, so that Wollongong and Sydney can have enough to drink,” Mr Muir said. 

For more info contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (ah)

[i] ABC Radio 5 Nov 2007

[ii] Sydney Catchment Authority, Submission to the Inquiry into the NSW Southern Coalfield, July 2007

[iii] NSW Environment Protection Authority Board, Submission to the Southern Coalfield Inquiry, 1 August, 2007

[iv] NSW Department of Environment and Climate Chage Submission to the Southern Coalfield Inquiry, page 37, 30 July.