Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Sydney residents can expect to drink more of Centennial Coal’s mine effluent

Every glass of water or coffee a Sydney resident drinks has mine effluent in it!

Centennial Coal is allowed to discharge up to 30 megalitres of mine effluent a day* from its Springvale mine into the Coxs River, with virtually no treatment.  This discharge then flows into the waters stored behind Warragamba Dam, our main water supply. 

Approval of proposed mine-expansion plans will permit Centennial to discharge a lot more effluent for us to drink, perhaps affecting its palatability.  Sydney’s water may end up tasting more like Adelaide’s water,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Centennial Coal’s proposed Springvale mine-extension proposes to duplicate its effluent discharge infrastructure so that the mine can discharge 50 megalitres of mine effluent a day#,” Mr Muir said.

“The review Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) accepted a worse case discharge analysis based on a mine discharge of only 19 megalitres a day.  In other words, the worst case analysis was just 40% of the capacity of the duplicated discharge system for which Centennial Coal is seeking approval.  The duplication has been improperly assessed and should be refused”, said Mr Muir.

“The impact assessment of this mine proposal on Sydney’s main water supply and the Coxs River that flows through a World Heritage Area and provides 30 per cent of the total inflow volume to that supply+ was grossly inadequate,” he said.

“Centennial Coal is resisting adequate water treatment for the highly saline effluent associated with mine-expansion, as well as refusing to protect 29 nationally endangered swamps from being undermined.  Sydney residents should be angry that this mine proposal has got so far without adequate environmental protection of the Coxs River and our main water supply.

“The draft consent conditions for controlling mine effluent are inadequate.  Centennial Coal’s Springvale extension does not propose to adequately treat its mine effluent, or even to the inadequate ‘off-the-shelf’ maximum salinity standard of 350EC. 

“Salinity and metals in mine’s effluent discharged to the Coxs River should be treated to a natural healthy river standard of 30EC that is appropriate for headwater streams that flow through a World Heritage Area and then on into our main drinking water supply..  

“Springvale’s discharges are highly saline and rich in heavy metals, and this mine has had over 900 pollution licence non-compliances between 2000 and 2013. 

“An adequately sized reverse osmosis treatment plant is necessary to remove the heavy metals and salts, so our drinking water and the Coxs River are not poisoned by this mine effluent,” said Mr Muir.

“The beautiful Coxs River will become a drain unless the saline mine effluent is adequately treated.  In drought periods the majority of river flows will be mine effluent.  Unless fixed, this discharge situation will see another lovely river in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains wrecked by Centennial Coal.  This is an ugly situation and the NSW Government needs to address these issues before this coal mine proposal goes before the determination PAC,” Mr Muir said.

There needs to another public hearing into this mine by the Determination PAC to ensure Centennial’s mine effluent is treated to a good standard and threatened swamps protected”, said Mr Muir.

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

*Planning Assessment Review Report, June 2015, Springvale mine extension, page 18.

# Centennial Coal, April 2014, Environmental Impact Statement – Springvale Mine Extension Project, Vol. 1, page 162, first dot at top of page; and EPA, Nov. 2014, ATTACHMENT ONE (DOC14/257524-01) - Review of Springvale and Angus Place Mine Extension EIS's Response to Submissions, page 3.

+ Independent Expert Scientific Committee, August 2014, IESC 2014-054: Springvale Mine Extension Project (EPBC 2013/6881; SSD - 5594), page 11, point 44.

EPA, Record of incidence of POEO licence non-compliance