Source : https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/sustainability/strict-rules-for-new-coal-mining-under-sydney-reservoir-20200329-p54eyd.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed
The Berejiklian government has given the nod for the extension of coal mining under one of Greater Sydney's reservoirs, the first such approval in two decades.
The Planning Department earlier this month told Peabody Energy it could proceed with the extraction of coal from three new longwalls, two of which will go beneath Woronora reservoir.
Planning Department official Mike Young says in a letter dated March 16 to Metropolitan mine that as the longwall will be the first to go under the reservoir it was important the extraction plan was "sufficiently robust" with "an appropriate adaptive management regime" to limit the impact of subsidence on water supply.
The letter details conditions for the miner, which include regular reviews of monitoring data and monthly reports to Planning and WaterNSW.
National Parks Association mining projects science officer Peter Turner said the last time one of Sydney's storages was undermined by coal operations was the Cataract reservoir in about 2000.
Subsidence caused by the collapsing rock after coal has been removed can create cracks that reach the surface and can drain water elsewhere. The subsidence can continue 25 years after the mining, he said.
"The impacts [of subsidence] generally catch the experts by surprise," Dr Turner said. "There are no reliable ways to quantify the leaking from the reservoir" caused by underground mining.
In a 2014 report on mining in the catchment, the NSW Chief Scientist found Sydney was alone among major cities to permit such activities.
Recent rain has almost doubled the water levels of Sydney's dams to about 83 per cent. Woronora's 63.8 per cent is the lowest of all.
A Peabody spokeswoman said the approvals would allow the mine "to continue to supply critical steel-making coal to the Port Kembla steelworks and to provide jobs for more than 400 local mining families during these unprecedented times".
“Our strong environmental performance has been confirmed by the Independent Expert Panel on Mining in the Catchment’s recent report that found the Metropolitan mine, 'displays no evidence of a connected fracture regime to surface,'” she said.
A Planning spokeswoman said the department gave approval for longwalls 305-307 "after comprehensively assessing the plan over six months".
"The assessment included consultation with WaterNSW, the Dams Safety Committee, and the Independent Expert Panel for Mining in the Catchment," she said, adding that Planning had adopted all of the expert recommendations imposed on the proposed mining.
Environmental groups were angry the nod was given even before Parliament got to debate a petition carrying 10,000-plus signatures opposed to the expansion. The debate was scheduled for last week but the coronavirus pandemic closed Parliament a day earlier until at least September.
“It shows complete contempt for the community that they approved this even prior to the now cancelled debate," Catherine Reynolds, executive director of the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre, said. “And with Peabody’s new exploration application [for a mine expansion] on top of it to rub salt into the wound.”
Along with the Metropolitan approval, the government also gave its tick for another longwall extraction at South32's Dendrobium mine, also within Sydney's catchment.
The approval, made without fanfare in late December, permits coal extraction to as much as 3.9 metres, a relatively "aggressive" height compared to Metropolitan's plan of about 3 metres, Dr Turner said.