State MP wants mining in water catchment banned

After touring parts of Sydney’s water catchment area, one NSW MP says he will take concerns over the “damage” longwall mining has caused to Premier Barry O’Farrell.

Member for Heathcote Lee Evans, member for Wollondilly Jai Rowell and Catherine Cusack, MLC, joined Sydney Water Catchment representatives and environmentalists as they toured parts of the catchment near the Illawarra yesterday, The Illawarra Mercury reported.

Evans said he was extremely concerned about the damage he had witnessed.

‘‘Longwall mining is affecting the catchment…in a way that I wouldn’t expect would be ticked off by any government,’’ Evans said.

‘‘A lot of it’s fractured and collapsed and dry as a bone.

‘‘Those areas normally would have water seeping through it or running through it and it was dry as a chip.’’

Evans said greater protection was needed to ensure further damage did not occur, stating he would approach his Coalition colleagues and ask for swift action on the matter.

‘‘We can’t fix what’s already happening but we can make sure it doesn’t happen in the future,’’ he said.

Evans said the situation was made worse by the fact regulations and policies put in place had allowed disturbance to occur.

‘‘The planning for the longwall mining under the swamps wasn’t expected to have any damage…but evidence tells me it’s more than damaged.’’

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW organised the tour in response to reports damage had been caused to upland swamps by longwall mining conducted by BHP Billiton.

BHP subsidiary Illawarra Coal operates the Dendrobium mine under the catchment area.

A BHP spokeswoman said all mining was approved with strict environmental conditions.

 “Illawarra Coal has been mining at Dendrobium since approval was granted by the NSW government in 2001,” she said.

‘‘All of our mining activities are undertaken in accordance with NSW government regulations and conditions.”

Evans said the tour reaffirmed his view that mining should be banned from catchment areas, including CSG.

‘‘It’s pristine bush and water catchment – it’s ridiculous to talk about having CSG in there,’’ Evans said.

‘‘I’ve spoken to Barry O’Farrell on previous occasions and I’ll be reiterating with photos why we should be leaving this area as it is.’’

Meanwhile a delegation of Chinese water scientists were asked to take a message back to the Chinese Government about buying coal from the area.

Water conservation group Rivers SOS invited the scientists from the department of ocean and fisheries from the Hainan Province.

"It was a really good opportunity because they were very sympathetic after seeing the actual maps of the special areas of Sydney's drinking water catchment and how small they are and how important they are," Rivers SOS spokeswoman Caroline Graham said.

"And they realised that they shouldn't be mined underneath when we showed them the damage that's been done to the swamps and the river systems."


To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.