The community is gearing up, for the third time, to give evidence to the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) that the proposed Wallarah 2 coal mine will have an unacceptable impact on human health and the Central Coast’s major water catchment supply district.
The Dooralong and Yarramalong Valleys, under which the mine is proposed to operate, are the major drinking water resource for the entire Central Coast.
Australian Coal Alliance (ACA) executive member, Mr Mike Campbell, said: “It really is a no-brainer, coal mining and water resources don’t mix.
“In NSW alone, more than 37 river and stream systems have been so badly compromised from long wall coal mining that they either no longer exist, or the water is so badly polluted that it is no longer potable,” Mr Campbell said.
“The protection of our vital water resources is paramount, yet the NSW Government has for too long put the interests of the coal mining industry before the needs of all communities to have access to an unpolluted and guaranteed drinking water supply from catchment areas.
“The community wants nothing more than the Liberal Government to honour its ironclad promise, made both in public and in writing, as Liberal Party Policy, to legislate not to allow mining in the Wyong water catchment valleys.
“The community is both resilient and steadfast in its fight to protect the drinking water and community health from the draconian and unacceptably destructive impacts of a longwall coal mine in the middle of our community.
“If Wallarah 2 believes that they will wear us down, they are mistaken.
“We will not go away.”
The PAC Hearing will be held from 9:00am on Friday, November 3, at the Wyong Golf Club.
The Australian Coal Alliance will be holding a protest rally, commencing at 8:00am, in front of the golf club.
“The community is invited to attend and voice their concern and let the PAC know that water and heath is sacrosanct,” Mr Campbell said.
“This will be the third time, under the miner’s current Development Application, that the community will have appeared before the PAC,” said Australian Coal Alliance (ACA) spokesperson, Mr Alan Hayes.
“On the previous two occasions the PAC found that the proponent had not sufficiently dealt with various matters, in particular being able to protect the water and provide a supplementary town water supply in all climatic conditions,” Mr Hayes said.
“The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) has conceded, albeit tacitly, that there will be a loss of water from the catchment, which would impact on the urban water supply,” he said.
“The Liberal Government and its planning department continue to show an unwavering bias toward the coal industry, trying to convince the community that putting water resources at risk of being lost is still in their best interests.
“Objectivity, which is a criteria of the mining assessment process, is pushed aside for a subjective approach that continually favours the mine proponent.
“This has been the ongoing problem that the community campaign opposing the Wallarah 2 coal project has had to tolerate.
“Don’t let the truth and evidence get in the way of a good story.
“The DPI has again recommended to the PAC that the mine could be approved and claims that it is in the public interest.
“This is despite overwhelming public opposition to the project and that, at the previous two PAC hearings, it was accepted that the mining company’s economic claims did not stack up and the mining company had not been able to guarantee it could meet the water criteria,” Mr Hayes said.
Mr Rod Campbell, director of leading economic think tank, the Australia Institute, said to the PAC in April, that “if the mining company’s claims were to be accepted, it would be the cheapest mine to build and operate in the world, a claim that is not tenable.”
In response, the PAC said: “This is a matter that should be brought to the attention of the (final) consent authority so that it can make an informed determination of the application as the economic benefits of the project could be as low as $32 million.”
Mr Hayes said the Department, in consultation with the applicant, should provide greater clarity in its conclusions about the net economic benefits of the project.
“The DPI acknowledges, in its Residual Matters Report on Wallarah 2, that the Central Coast’s water catchment is only a small catchment area and that it will need to service the increasing population of the region.
“The report also acknowledges that many of the matters raised that will have a direct and adverse impact on the community, their lives, their homes, their health and their water, have not been resolved by the proponent.
“So the question is, why is the DPI recommending to the PAC, approval of this coal mine project?”
According to Mr Hayes, the Department of Planning has continued to ignore a number of matters that the PAC required the proponent to deal with in 2014.
The PAC asked for the proponent to prepare a review report on Potential Losses of Baseflow, and Stream Morphology was required.
“This, it would seem from current documentation, has not been provided,” Mr Hayes said.
The Department notes that in January 2017, Wallarah 2 provided revised estimates regarding only temporary potential losses to the Central Coast water supply.
“Again the Department just accepts what comes from Kores (Wallarah 2),” Mr Hayes said.
The PAC also said the consent authority needed to satisfy itself that proposed subsidence compensation measures would deliver a fair and reasonable outcome for affected property owners.
“If the consent authority (The Minister for Planning) cannot be satisfied that the outcomes will be fair and reasonable, then the consent authority will have to consider whether the residual impacts make the project unacceptable,” the PAC said.
Mr Hayes said he would argue that the consent authority has failed to address this issue.
The (PAC) commission’s 2014 Review also recommend DPI and the EPA consider the broader implications for potential emissions from rail transport of coal before a final assessment report was submitted to the consent authority.
The PAC said: “The Commission also notes that the Chief Scientist’s report indicates further studies will be carried out to better understanding (sic) the various components of the issue – dust generated by coal wagons along rail corridors.
“These will be relevant to the consent authority’s consideration at the time of determination.”
According to Mr Hayes, “There is not a word about this in the Residual Matters Report and it would appear that nothing has been done.
“To the uninformed, the battle to protect the Central Coast’s water catchment might appear to be no more than a David versus Goliath scenario, with the community pitted against the Liberal Government and its planning department, enjoined with the miners,” Mr Hayes said.
“It’s a fight that’s been waged for 21 years, one that should have concluded in 2011 on the back of the Liberal Party’s solemn promise.
“It was a mere moment ago when the Liberals promised to protect the Central Coast’s drinking water catchment from the destructive process of longwall coal mining.
“Then Premier, Mr Barry O’Farrell, stood up in front of the community and the media and promised, hand on heart and on the behalf of a future Liberal Government, that there would be no longwall coal mining beneath the Central Coast’s major drinking water catchment.
“The Liberals’ no ifs, no buts, guaranteed ironclad promise was reaffirmed in writing and also became policy.
“Instead of honouring their commitment to the Central Coast, they allowed the proponents to re-lodge a development application that had been previously rejected by the Keneally Labor Government.
“The Keneally Government, based on sound scientific evidence, the same evidence that the Liberals were privilege to, decided that the proposed Wallarah 2 coal mine would compromise the integrity of the drinking water catchment, and determined that the project was not in the public interest.
“They applied the precautionary principle and rejected the proponent’s development application.
“The Liberals then dug deep into their book of excuses as to why the promised legislation wasn’t forthcoming, excuses that, over time, became more rubbery as ICAC’s Operation Spicer revealed alleged questionable goings on between Liberal Ministers and executives of KORES, the South Korean Government-owned proprietors of the Wallarah 2 coal project.
“This same Liberal administration has eroded the democratic rights of people to stand up and object to development decisions that may adversely impact on communities.
“Under Barry O’Farrell’s leadership, merit rights appeal on coal mine approvals was taken away.
“Then Mike Baird made it illegal for people to peacefully protest against a proposed coal mine, introducing massive fines and up to seven years’ imprisonment for doing so.
“Gladys Berejiklian’s law was recently used to override our justice system about the unlawful mine extension approval of the Springvale mine.
Media release, Oct 18
Alan Hayes, Australian Coal Alliance