Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Environmental risks flagged at Public Hearing into the Airly Mine extension

Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness believes that “water management for Centennial Coal’s proposed extension Airly Mine must be vastly improved.  The water management combined with the proposed 38 hectare solid waste heap creates a toxic time bomb.  Further, it’s Panel and Pillar extraction mine plan will put cliffs and pagoda complexes in the State Conservation Area at risk. He was speaking before the public meeting of the Planning Assessment Commission into the Airly Mine extension that is to be held at the Lithgow Union Hall at 3pm today.”

“Centennial Coal must not be allowed to store hundreds of megalitres of toxic mine water or a place huge 38 hectare pile of toxic coal waste on a hill above the World Heritage Area without an engineered retaining wall to hold it.  Centennial also should not be allowed to mine the guts out of Mount Airly and Genolwan Mountains or to expect regulatory authorities to approve the cliff and pagoda damage that will result”, said Mr Muir.

“If it is to secure a consent, Centennial must separate clean water running off undisturbed areas from dirty water from the pit top and waste heap areas.  The proposed water arrangements at the mine will greatly increase the chance of a pollution incident in wet weather as more dirty water is stored than necessary,” Mr Muir said.

“The Colong Foundation opposes the 38 hectare waste heap as it is proposed without an engineered retaining wall to contain it.  To make matters worse, the heap would contain potentially contains acid forming waste materials that needs to be kept wet.  The combination of wet fines and no containment are the identical conditions that produced the toxic waste spill into the Wollangambe River by Centennial’s Clarence Mine in July this year”, said Mr Muir.

“The Colong Foundation has proposed conditions to ensure that liquid and solid waste management are improved, but it is astounding that Centennial Coal has not adequately researched these waste management issues in its environmental impact statement.  Acid Metalliferous Drainage, for example, receives just six lines of consideration,” he said.

“The third major issue that must be addressed if this mine is to be considered before approval is proposed removed of 67 per cent of coal from under the majority of the Muggi Murum-ban State Conservation Area.  This level of coal extraction is too intense and the long term security of cliffs and pagodas will be at risk unless extraction levels are reduced to 50 per cent”, Mr Muir said. 

“I had hoped that this proposal would not be so objectionable, but again Centennial has cut corners and now expects approval of a poor mine design”, he said.

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