Local environmental groups near Lithgow in New South Wales are arguing against an expansion of a mining colliery, saying it will wipe out dozens of native flora species.
Xstrata’s application to continue long wall mining at the Baal Bone Colliery near Cullen Basin until 2014 has been approved by the NSW Planning Department.
Those against the mine’s expansion say the continuation of the mine will impact on local water supplies, native species and cracks in the earth caused by mining operations.
Lithgow Environment Group spokesman, Chris Jonkers says the government overlooking the environmental impact is “grossly irresponsible”.
“We found 151 plant species in that area that were not identified on the company’s species list and they’ve been totally ignored and some of the species will disappear.
The water pollution’s going to continue, the cliffs are going to continue to fall, cracks are going to open up and there’s no requirement for the company to repair any of that damage.”
He said the government should have called on Xstrata to repair damage already done to the local environment which it says will be irreparable after another three years of longwall mining.
“There are huge cracks in the ground, literally a horse and rider would disappear down some of these cracks yet there’s no requirement to repair that damage.
This proposal still poses a threat to an endangered swamp community on the Coxs River and it’s quite possible that the Wolgan escarpment is going to collapse,” he said.
But Keith Muir, Director of the Colong Wilderness Foundation says the Planning Department’s determination does include a protection barrier for the Wolgan Valley escarpment.
“Well it’s a lot better than it could have been, the proposal as it was put forward I believe put the Wolgan escarpment at risk and it’s certainly been pulled back a bit from the escarpment and I’m sure the Emirates resort will be happy with that.
We’re pleased that the rehabilitation requirements are in there but unfortunately the Coxs River and its headwaters will lose all water supplies when these longwall panels are taken out and the swamp in the headwaters will probably die.”
Mark Skelsey, from the NSW Planning Department said the new approval brings the Baal Bone mine, which has been operating under historical leases within the Act, under modern environmental conditions.
“What we’re doing is also introducing the controls of the state’s planning law and making mines only using that Mining Act approval to have to apply to operate under planning law and this means there’s probably a far more comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of the mine and a series of conditions that go with that,” he said.
He said part of the conditions is ensuring the protection of the Wolgan escarpment.
“Previous mining had actually gone underneath the cliff edge for this mine but for this new round of mining over the next few years, we’re requiring the mining to be at least 145 metres from the cliff edge.
We believe that will protect the escarpment from subsidence and rock falls.”
The new operation will secure 190 jobs at the mine, which is located 25 kilometres north west of Lithgow.