National Park may not stop Dharawal mining

Environmentalists have warned that turning the Dharawal State Conservation area into a national park may not stop the mining there.

Environmentalists have warned that turning the Dharawal State Conservation area into a national park may not stop the mining there.

Earlier in the week, BHP Billiton, which has a lease to mine in the area, called for talks with the State Opposition about their plans to turn the area into a National Park if they win the upcoming election.

But there are now claims that turning the area into a national park won’t necessarily disallow mining in the 6200ha conservation area as promised by State Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell.

The proposed area runs  north-west from the Illawarra into the Wollondilly Shire, east of Appin.

The latest mine application from BHP Billiton Illawara Coal removes most of the zones it wanted to mine under Dharawal.

The company said in October it has removed these zones after community concerns.

The day after these plans were announced, the Planning Assessment Community report revealed longwall mining could cause extensive environmental damage and the community would benefit from mining being disallowed there.

According to Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel, a park with a depth of 50 or 100 metres would not stop mining beneath the surface.

However the Opposition has said it will do whatever it takes to prevent mining in the area.

"The whole point of the national park is to protect it from undermining from coal and gas extraction," Opposition spokesperson Catherine Cusack said.

"Will there be any conditions that attach to the national park that allow mining? No, there won’t be.

"There might be legal issues involved and we’ll just work through the legal issues until we get to the required outcome."

But Illawara Coal is not giving up on mining plans in the conservation  area.

"Illawarra Coal is committed to doing the research that will allow us to mine in the region in the future in a manner which would not only preserve the sensitive nature of the Dharawal state conservation area, but enable the responsible extraction of the valuable coking coal reserves held in the company’s lease" company president Colin Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield has also said he was “disappointed” the Opposition did not consult with the miner prior to the announcement, and that a “blanket” decision on a national park would seriously impact existing operations for the company at its nearby West Cliff mine.

Cusack has rejected these claims and said she has been in talks with BHP Billiton about the plan since May.

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