Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Springvale Mine Water Transfer and Treatment welcomed by environment groups

The Planning Assessment Commission approval yesterday of the Springvale Mine Water Treatment Plant is welcomed by environment groups.  It will remove Centennial Coal’s toxic pollution from the Coxs River that is part of Sydney’s drinking water supply and flows through the World Heritage Area,” said Madi Maclean President of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society.

“The scheme will ensure more natural flows in the Coxs River by reusing mine water in the Mt Piper power plant instead of taking fresh water from the river.  The addition of Thompsons Creek ensures temporary surplus mine water is stored rather than discharged”, said Ms Maclean.

“The Conservation Society is pleased that the Commission required removal of the original transfer pipeline from Newnes Plateau.  Its removal ensures that mine water discharges do not increase beyond the capacity of the treatment plant,” Ms Maclean said.

The Blue Mountains Conservation Society has been battling this mine water issue for at least a decade.  In June 2009 the Society instigated legal action against Delta Electricity over a failed mine water reuse scheme at Wallerawang Power Station that discharged to the Coxs River.  We hope that the lessons of this failed scheme are applied at the Mt Piper power plant, she said.

Responding to the announcement Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness said “The mine water treatment project can only remove from the Coxs River a third of the salt and metals discharged by the Springvale mine from now till the end of the mine’s life(1).  The other two thirds will be discharged into the river system from now till the treatment plant becomes operational in two years time, including a further 4,365.9 tonnes of salt due to an extension of the mine’s ‘pollution holiday’.”

“The Department of Planning and Environment should have recommended this new water treatment plant be part of the 2015 mine extension as pollution laws require a neutral or beneficial outcome for major development in Sydney’s water catchment.  Clear directions by the Department would have saved a lot of work retrofitting the treatment plant to the mine extension project”, said Mr Muir.

“This Springvale mine water treatment proposal has made a ‘dogs breakfast’ of pollution control laws.  Centennial Coal has had its original two year pollution holiday in its 2015 development consent extended by another two years until July 2019 under this new consent”, Mr Muir said. 

“It’s also disappointing that mine water treatment system will require more bushland on Newnes Plateau to be cleared and another road bulldozed down the escarpment through scenic pagodas to establish a larger mine water transfer pipeline,“ said Mr Muir.

“Of course there is still the question of whether Springvale’s approvals are legal in the light of the Court of Appeal which is yet to be handed down”, Mr Muir warned.

Reference 1:
lanning Assessment Commission Determination Report Springvale Mine Extension Project Mod 2 (SSD5594) page 7 'Comparing the base case of the existing operation, the modification will result in a total reduction of salt discharge by 9,101.3 tonnes or 35%.'

For more information contact: Madi Maclean 0412 428 202 (mob)
                                                Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)