Lock the Gate blasts Dendrobium mine extension plans

Picture: file
Picture: file

Planning is kicking off for a new proposal to extend South32's Dendrobium metallurgical coal mine beneath Macarthur, after its earlier proposal was knocked back by the Independent Planning Commission almost a year ago.

The extension project was designated State Significant Infrastrucutre (SSI) in December, allowing the mine to resubmit amended plans to extend the Area 5 Project, neighbouring Cordeaux Dam (which supplies drinking water).

Anti-mining organisation Lock the Gate is opposed to the extension of mining works and has criticised the early planning documents released as part of the new SSI proposal.

South32 has so far lodged a Scoping Report - something of a project overview - which is earlier in the process than even an Environmental Impact Statement.

WaterNSW has released its response to the Scoping Report, which Lock the Gates deems to be damning, but which South32 will use to better inform their planning proposal.

"WaterNSW's scathing assessment backs our argument that an independent assessment of South32's Dendrobium revised extension is required," Lock the Gates spokesman Nic Clyde said.

"We're confident that if this were to occur, the IPC would again rule the mine's impacts on Sydney and the Illawarra's drinking water catchment is too great.

"The NSW Government took the decision away from the IPC because it didn't like the last outcome. We need independence and scientific rigour when it comes to protecting our precious drinking water catchments, not ham-fisted politically motivated decisions."

A South32 spokesman said it was still very early days in the process, and the company was working hard to reduce their impacts on drinking water.

"We are continuing to work through the planning and assessment process for the Dendrobium Mine Extension Project," he said.

"To date, we have published a Scoping Report giving an overview of the Project. We are developing an Environmental Impact Statement which will respond to assessment criteria outlined by the NSW Government and its agencies, including WaterNSW.

"We recognise water is a critical resource and successful long-term environmental management is essential to our business.

"The project is following a comprehensive environmental approval pathway, including a detailed examination of water management, to minimise impacts while delivering benefits to the Illawarra region and for NSW. We believe that with careful planning mining can coexist with the sustainable development of the state's resources."

WaterNSW's response to the Scoping Report called it an "important first step in the assessment process".

"WaterNSW supports the approach... to consider the requirements of the [Environmental Protection Instruments] that would have applied to the project had it not otherwise been declared as SSI," the report read.

"WaterNSW recommends the EIS to consider... the incorporation of WaterNSW's current recommended practices and standards or, otherwise demonstrate how the practices and performance standards proposed to be adopted will achieve outcomes not less than those achieved by WaterNSW's current recommended practices and standards."

WaterNSW said it would "only support the consideration of water offsets for the Area 5 Extension Project as a contingency measure" and "does not support [offsetting] surface water take for the revised Dendrobimu Area 5 Extension Project as suggested in the Scoping Report".

They said mine designed needed to "avoid/minimise surface water losses and options for treating and returning underground mine water back into the Sydney drinking water catchment".

The report also known a "knowledge gap" and "inadequate studies" regarding groundwater recharge rates and suggested "future swamp monitoring and modelling programs should be designed to provide a hydrological balance for representative swamps, sufficient to identity any mining-induced changes in soil moisture and in baseflow down the exit stream; and to provide vertical leakage rates as inputs to groundwater models, in order to quantify how much of the leakage is diverted back into the catchment or elsewhere".

South32 says their revised SSI plan would reduce the longwall mining area by 60 per cent and avoid key stream and swamps; set back mines 400 metres from key rivers and streams, and one kilometre from dam walls; reduce predicted surface water loss by 60 per cent; and create more than 100 new jobs during construction.

View WaterNSW's full response here.

This story Lock the Gate blasts Dendrobium mine extension plans first appeared on Camden-Narellan Advertiser.