Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Court appeal to save Sydney’s water supply

                     Joint Media Release
The Colong Foundation for Wilderness
Lithgow Environment Group
Blue Mountains Conservation Society
NSW Nature Conservation Council

The 4nature environment group is back in court tomorrow (Wednesday, May 31) trying to stop mining giant Centennial Coal dumping millions of litres of polluted water into the Coxs River, a major tributary of Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water supply.

The group initiated legal action in late 2015 arguing the NSW Government failed to properly consider a legal requirement that such developments be approved only if they have a “neutral or beneficial effect”. Under the approval, the mine was permitted to release into the Coxs River millions of litres a day of waste water containing salts, metals and other materials.

In September last year, the Land and Environment Court upheld the government’s decision, but 4nature appealed. The matter is due to be heard in the Supreme Court tomorrow. A judgement will be handed down in due course.

4nature spokesman Andrew Cox said: “We are appealing the decision to restore some sanity to the situation. If we fail, we will be calling for the laws to be strengthened to ensure Sydney’s drinking water supplies cannot be compromised in this way.”

Colong Foundation Director Keith Muir said: “If the Land and Environment Court decision is permitted to stand, it means the state’s pollution control laws cannot protect the environment and our drinking water supplies from the negative impacts of coal mining.”

Lithgow Environment Group spokesperson Chris Jonkers said: “The Land and Environment Court’s ruling basically concluded that pumping that much waste water into the Coxs River have a ‘neutral or beneficial effect’. That water is acutely and chronically toxic to all aquatic life, so it defies common sense to say this will have no effect. The approval is not in line with community expectations.”  

Blue Mountains Conservation Society President Madi MacLean said: “For years community monitoring has recorded high levels of salts and other contaminants in the Coxs River downstream of Springvale and other underground coal mines. The government can no longer ignore this serious problem.”

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “It is appalling community groups like 4nature have been forced to take legal action to protect a vital community resource. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the government must act quickly to strengthen water catchment laws to ensure they provide the protection for our water supplies that the community expects.”

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain 0419 272 254



NSW Planning Assessment Commission approves a 13-year extension of Centennial Coal’s Springvale mine. The approval permitted the extraction of 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year from 20 new underground longwall panels.


The approval permitted the company to discharge polluted water into the Coxs River. The mine will release 19 megalitres a day of waste water – containing salts, metals and other materials.



Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of 4nature, files a case in the Land and Environment Court arguing the move was not compliant with the 2011 State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) covering Sydney's drinking water catchment.


The policy permits approvals only for projects that have a “neutral or beneficial effect” on water quality in Sydney’s drinking water catchments.



SMH article.



Land and Environment Court hearing.  



Determination – courts rules against 4nature



4nature appeals



Appeal hearing scheduled in the NSW Appeal Court.