Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Colong Foundation Welcomes a second Coal Mining Inquiry into drinking water catchments

"We welcome this new independent inquiry into the Southern Coalfield that covers the drinking water catchments south of Sydney,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The Colong Foundation has confidence this inquiry will report what is actually happening to our drinking water catchments,” Mr Muir said.

“In announcing this inquiry the Department of Planning and Environment revealed exactly why we need an independent review”, said Mr Muir.

The Department’s spokesperson asserted that “coal mining has occurred in the catchment for over 160 years without any major impacts on water supply.”  

“There clearly have been significant impacts, if major impacts include the drying out of upland swamps and streams due to widespread cracking of surface rocks.  So the Department needs independent advice on what should define “major impacts”.  

The expert panel will look closely at any risks to the catchment’s water resources”, and in doing so the panel will discover just how extensively cracked the catchment surface rocks have become due to intensive underground coal mining,” he said.

“I encourage the independent expert panel to get lots of exercise walking the areas that have been mined.  Too often inquiries become mired in expert reports, when the truth is out there in what should be our pristine drinking water catchments”, Mr Muir said. 

“I am concerned that the Department of Planning and Environment officers have, like Don Quixote, spent far too many hours reading vast volumes of environmental reporting from the coal industry and that has prevented them understanding the actual physical damage in a common sense manner”, said Mr Muir.

When the Planning Department states “All mines in the catchment are currently required to limit water losses and follow strict water monitoring condition,” you know our drinking water catchments are in trouble.  So we welcome today’s announcement as a way to reset the regulatory framework and stop the damage,” he said.

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

Inquiry Terms of Reference - NSW Chief Scientist website link