Whitehaven Coal proposal - first test of Commonwealth powers

Social, legal and health issues related to unrestrained expansion of coal mines in Australia.

Whitehaven Coal proposal - first test of Commonwealth powers

Postby HVPA_research » Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:09 am


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29 October 2012

A proposal by Whitehaven Coal for the largest coal mine in the Namoi Valley is the first big test of the Commonwealth’s new regulatory regime to ensure coal and CSG activities aren’t allowed to significantly harm the nation’s valuable water resources.

While the NSW Government last week gave the ‘green light’ to the mine, CCAG spokesman Tim Duddy said it was clear the scale and location of the mine should automatically trigger the protections in the new Commonwealth regime - set up to ensure a more rigorous science-based assessment of mining proposals.

“The NSW Government’s approval of this massive mine is no surprise - it’s what communities have become accustomed to under a planning process that is deliberately designed to facilitate mining in this State regardless of the social or environmental costs,” Mr Duddy said.

“What is different this time though is, for the first time, we now have Commonwealth ‘oversight’ in place and a panel of expert scientists with authority to independently and scientifically assess the potential impacts of mining projects when they threaten our water resources.

“As part of that assessment, we expect the Whitehaven proposal will also result in the first comprehensive Bioregional Assessment now being undertaken in the Namoi Valley.

“Communities across the country have waited a long time for this moment. What happens next will be a very big test for the Commonwealth’s commitment to improved, science-based assessments of major mining and CSG proposals,” Mr Duddy said.

Mr Duddy said independent scientific oversight of State-based planning decisions was vital given the failure of successive NSW governments to properly protect valuable land and water resources when powerful mining interests were involved.

He said it was also clear that the mineral industry was still trying to cling to the past and avoid having its operations restricted in any way by greater scientific scrutiny.

Mr Duddy said a good example of that occurred only last Friday in a NSW Minerals Council media release where CEO Stephen Galilee welcomed the Whitehaven approval as ‘a good example of responsible mining development’ and went on to claim the recently completed Namoi Water Study showed ‘that the cumulative impacts of coal mining in the New England North West can be successfully managed’.

“For Mr Galilee to suggest that the Namoi study somehow provided comfort that future large-scale mining in this region posed no serious threat to the water systems is simply inaccurate and he would know that given what the consultants who undertook the Namoi study said on the day it was released,” Mr Duddy said.

On 1 August this year, Mark Anderson of Schlumberger Water Services told ABC Radio that there were ‘critical data gaps’ in some areas of the study and that more work was needed to properly understand the important question of what ‘connectivity’ existed between coal deposits and some groundwater systems.

Mr Duddy said given Mr Galilee’s claims, was it any wonder communities had little faith in the mining industry.

“Our community looks forward to the Independent Scientific Committee now closing some of the critical data gaps identified in the Namoi Water Study, and providing a truly independent assessment of the risks involved in major mining projects in this region before any final approval is given,” Mr Duddy said.

Contact: Tim Duddy, CEO CCAG 0427 106267

BOX 4009

MOBILE 0427 106267
H. 02 67474683
FAX. 02 67474828

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