Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

BHP-Billiton's Appin West mine threatens the Nepean River

“BHP-Billiton’s Appin West Colliery has caused methane gas to bubble up in the Nepean River.  Mining in Area 7 near the Nepean River commenced in November 2007 and has caused subsidence of the river bed.  Yesterday a local conservationist and Rivers SOS spokesperson, Ms Caroline Graham, reported the emergence of flammable methane gas bubbles in the river, which is a sure indicator that the river bed beneath has been cracked,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“BHP-Billion had complained bitterly about being stopped from mining directly under the Nepean but has still mined far too close to the river.  The methane gas has escaped from a geological trap beneath the river that has been cracked by the mining.  There are fears that the methane escape will get worse and be associated with eco-toxic pollution,” he said.

“The methane may displace oxygen in the water column and with the potential emergence of eco-toxic groundwater cause a large plume of pollution that could seriously impact on the Nepean River’s ecology,” Mr Muir said.

“BHP-B has also successfully demanded from the NSW government access to the coal under part of the Upper Canal in compensation for the coal it claims to have lost under the Nepean.  This deal set a very bad precedent for mining under essential infrastructure, a decision likely to be regretted by everyone concerned”, he said.

“The coal deal ignores the fact the coal is owned by the Crown, not by BHP-B who only have limited rights to mine it.  The company has no right to expect access other areas in compensation for measures taken to protect rivers or catchment areas”, said Mr Muir.

“Will BHP-Billiton also demand access to other coal if it is stopped from mining under the Main Southern Railway line? Mr Muir asks.  I expect this Line will be damaged and need ongoing repairs when longwall 703 is started next year“, he added.

“Protecting rivers, catchments and essential infrastructure such as railways and water supplies is essential to secure our healthy environment and a strong community.  To claim that the coal retained in protection zones for these assets as a cost is nonsense; it is social capital that should remain wisely invested in our environment by keeping the coal in the ground”, Mr Muir said.

“BHP-Billiton should stop seeking to weaken protection measures and instead adequately protect our rivers, water supply catchments and essential infrastructure,” said Mr Muir.

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