Life and Nature

Hume Coal – My Submission to IPC Against the Project.

As a citizen of the Southern Highlands I wish to submit my objection to the proposed new coal mine near the township of Berrima.

The Hume Coal project is predicted to have significant impacts on a highly productive groundwater aquifer, including drawdown impacts on up to 118 privately owned bores.  It is predicted drawdown impacts on this aquifer would be the most significant for any mining project that has ever been assessed in NSW, and the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy expressly contemplates the possible scenario where there are “no suitable or practical mitigation or prevention options”, and this project represents such a case. Additionally, there is a substantial degree of uncertainty about the mine design and, in particular, the methodology underpinning the geotechnical model.

The combination of an untested mining method [pine feather] and an unconventional method of storing large quantities of mine water underground is likely to result in serious operational safety risks which may lead to the transfer of additional mine water to the surface and a need to discharge into watercourses. Anydischarge of mine water (whether treated or untreated) may result in significant impacts on surface water.

Further, there is a risk that the operational safety issues associated with the unconventional mine design may result in an unexpected sterilisation of coal, as a consequence reducing the economic benefits of the project because there would be fundamental difficulties in efficiently recovering the coal resource for this project, particularly due to the shallow depth of the coal and the risk of environmental vandalism. Importantly, even the Applicant’s estimated net economic benefits of $373 million is relatively low in comparison to many other coal mining projects in the Southern Coalfield and across NSW.Hume Coal’s unconventional mine design presents a range of uncertainties and safety risks, as well as the likelihood of significant impacts on water resources.

The economic benefits estimated by Hume Coal’s EIS cannot be realised without significant adverse impacts on the environment and the local community, particularly in relation to groundwater contamination. Nevertheless, any perceived economic benefits are not worth the adverse risks to the environment and community. There is a threat of serious harm to both groundwater and surface water resources, and there is currently considerable scientific uncertainty about the level of environmental damage to both. As a result, the ‘precautionary principle’ is triggered so the project should not be considered an ‘ecologically sustainable development’. Based on the information currently available, the project is not in the public interest and should not be approved.

I would like to point out that we have an old disused coal mine in Berrima, owned by Boral who are expected to come up with proposals to mitigate the pollution problem it is causing, all of which have been rejected by Government bodies. Boral is also responsible for monitoring and performance management of the whole clean-up operation. After many, many years of wrangling, nothing is happening, and no progress has been made, and in the meantime, toxic pollutants are rushing into our waterways killing all the essential micro-organisms crucial for marine and bird life, and additionally into the Sydney water supply. It appears there is no solution to the toxic waste coming from this mine.

Are our great grandchildren going to be attending packed ball rooms to see useless updates on the progress of mopping up the pollution problems we are causing today? Passing the buck to past decision makers, all now long dead?

Not only is this site not suitable for the development of a new coal mine, but we already have coal mines in the Southern Coalfield and across NSW and we wish not to add to them.

I reiterate, based on the information currently available, and the evidence of the charade that is involved in expecting coal mining interests to clean up after themselves, once the damage has been done, then it should be obvious to any independent thinking and educated person to conclude that the Hume Coal project is not in the public interest and should not be approved.

The IPC submissions cut off date is Friday 15 February 2019 at 5.00pm.

The Public Hearing will be held at the Moss Vale Services Club  on Tuesday 26 February, 2019 at 10.00am.

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