Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Way past time for Centennial Coal to clean up World Heritage pollution

“The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) must restore the popular Wollangambe River to health by requiring Centennial Coal to eliminate metal, salinity and pH pollution from its mine water discharges at Clarence colliery,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Yesterday scientists from Western Sydney, Dr Ian Wright and Nakia Belmer confirmed Centennial Coal’s Clarence mine water pollution has “killed” 22 kilometres of the Wollangambe River in the World Heritage listed wilderness of the Blue Mountains. 

“The mine water pollution at Clarence has been acknowledged by Centennial Coal[1] since 1999, and yet in the 18 years since the EPA hasn’t achieved effective clean-up of this pollution. Clearly the behind-closed-doors approach to pollution licensing is broken,” Mr Muir said.

World Heritage promises Broken by Centennial Coal

“Governments and regulators have an obligation under the World Heritage Convention to ensure miners restore World Heritage rivers to health[2]. Centennial Coal has had decades to clean up and two-and-a-half years to agree with the EPA over a new pollution licence”, Mr Muir said.

“In 2003 the International Council on Mining and Metals gave a No Go commitment that mining companies would not to mine in World Heritage Areas, and in 2013 the World Heritage Committee called for miners to stop damaging World Heritage”, he said.

“This time Federal and State Governments must act to stop the damage as Centennial Coal is a long term, serial offender in regard to water pollution and World Heritage damage,” he said.

“Centennial’s games the regulatory system but this time the game’s over.  There is clear independent science and the miner must stop polluting the otherwise pristine Wollangambe River,” said Mr Muir.

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


[1] Byrnes, R. 1999, ‘If the current system is allowed to continue indefinitely, the discharge of such waters into the Wollangambe [River] would be considered a breach of the Clean Waters Act, rendering the mine liable to prosecution. It is therefore evident that this is not an option that is acceptable to Centennial’.

[2] This led the World Heritage Committee to adopt Decision 37 COM 7 (Part III) at its 37th session in 2013, urging all States Parties to the World Heritage Convention and the leading industry stakeholders, to respect the ICMM “No-go” commitment by not permitting extractives activities within World Heritage properties, and by making every effort to ensure that extractives companies located in their territory cause no damage to World Heritage properties, in line with Article 6 of the Convention.