NSW Chinese mine falls short of environmental standards: report

A contentious mining proposal for agricultural land near the Liverpool Plains in northern NSW has been accused of failing to meet environmental standards.

Shenhua Watermark Coal, a subsidiary of Chinese mining giant Shenhua, is looking for environmental authorisation for the coalmine and filed an environmental impact statement (EIS).  

But a review of Shenhua’s EIS paid for by farmers and agricultural groups found problems with the proposed project, the SMH reported.

Head of the Caroona Coal Action Group Tim Duddy said the mine could not proceed after the results of the assessment.

“There’s simply not enough data to assess whether it’s going to harm the agricultural resources or not,” he said.

“You can’t possibly approve a mine with this lack of data.

“This expert report makes it absolutely clear that either Shenhua does not understand what is involved in genuine environmental protection in a precious area like this or doesn’t take that obligation seriously.”

The report, by consulting group Earth Systems, said the mine could violate a prohibition on open-cut mining on the Liverpool Plains.

The assessment also found ‘major gaps’ in the mine’s risk assessment in areas like baseline data for water quality and geochemistry.

They said this is making it difficult to provide comprehensive assessment of the full environmental impacts from the mine.  

Shenhua Watermark project manager Paul Jackson said in a statement environmental scientific studies in the EIS, including surface and groundwater, and the agricultural impact assessment went through independent reviews before they were released.

He added data collection and analysis is done according to requirements of the NSW Government.

“At more than 3,000 pages in length, it is difficult to understand how any third party could claim the EIS contains insufficient data to support the environmental assessment.

“The project has been designed to comply with the NSW Government’s Aquifer Interference Policy and Strategic Regional Land Use Policy and Commonwealth Government assessment requirements,” he said.

Duddy said Shenhua should not have been given an exploration licence for the area.

“If they get this wrong they could poison two thirds of the Murray-Darling system,” he said.

The company paid $300 million for the exploration licence and received approval in 2008 by disgraced former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald.

The company would have paid another $200 million to the government if it received approval for the mine.

Shenhua said the mine will inject $900 million into the local economy and provide jobs but an economic assessment by Economists at Large said this is exaggerated.

Duddy said he will pass the two reports to state and federal governments for consideration along with Shenhua’s EIS.

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