Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Springvale mine impacts on nationally listed swamps – expert report

At the end of last year, the Colong Foundation and the Blue Mountains Conservation Society commissioned Pells Consulting to review recent evidence regarding near surface groundwater impacts on Newnes Plateau swamps due to longwall mining at the Springvale Mine following approval to extend its longwall mining area by 1,860 hectares.

The report confirms that longwall mining causes swamp impacts. The damage caused by mining slowly dries out swamps and this is reflected in changes to swamp ecology.

Pells Consulting considers that after longwall mining there is a significant increase in downwards movement of groundwater. Pells also considers Centennial's classification of rainfall and groundwater swamps is likely an expression of longwall mining. Also, mine dewatering will ultimately affect swamps, but it is not known by when, and by how much.

These findings are consistent with the Scientific Committee finding that longwall mining is a key threatening process to upland swamps on sandstone. 

The claim in the Springvale extension EIS that longwall mining has negligible impacts on upland swamps is incorrect. This claim may seem laughable, except that a draft swamp offset policy is based on that assertion and this policy was incorporated into the development consent for the mine extension. This consent allows 29 nationally endangered swamps to be undermined by Springvale Mine. 

Any swamp impacts greater than negligible impacts are a breach of consent but the miner's experts almost invariably excuse swamp damage as not directly attributable to mining.

There seems little chance of swamps impacts being reported by the company and it will be up to conservationists to establish environmental damage.