Community rallies against coal mine’s seismic mapping of Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie locals held a spontaneous meeting to discuss the proposed testing.

[Gwandalan] Environmental Group, Save Our Coast (SOC), has just had a “win” to stop 3D seismic testing in ocean waters off the Central Coast, but is now facing another challenge over seismic mapping in the waters of Lake Macquarie.

SOC Founder and Chair, Natasha Deen, said Centennial Coal was due to start testing at 7am on Monday, February 3, but community pressure had managed to delay the tests.
She said a small newspaper advertisement (not in Wyong Regional Chronicle) mentioned “a survey” being conducted in the lake, with no mention of seismic testing or seismic blasting.

“Where was the community consultation?” Deen said.

“Every 0.5 seconds, at 200 to 227 decibels, underwater airgun blasts will be fired continuously every day, for two to three weeks, to map the shallow lake floor.
“Destructive and damaging seismic testing within beautiful Lake Macquarie has been suddenly imposed on us by Centennial Coal without community awareness, without adequate community consultation or concern for the fragile ecosystem, Deen said.

She said there were very few answers to many questions at a meeting with Centennial Coal on Friday, January 31, and that SOC had consulted with the Environmental Defenders Office.
Swansea MP, Yasmin Catley, said any survey work that is undertaken in the lake should be in accordance with the strictest guidelines to protect the marine environment and preserve the recreational fisheries.
More than 60 locals concerned about the lake’s future attended a quickly organised expression session on Sunday, February 2.
Environmentalist, Gary Blaschke, of Lake Munmorah, said that with the support of Lake Macquarie MP, Greg Piper, Centennial Coal had delayed the test for a further week.

“Very few, or possibly none, of the authorities including the police, maritime, fisheries or the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) were notified of the test program as we understand it,” Blaschke said.

“This is even though the DPI had recently released up to 2,000 tagged juvenile flathead and spawning is currently happening by many species in the test area.
“Centennial’s own recent study by GHD independent consultants identified 123 potential environment impacts by the five methods of seismic, magnetic and drilling programs proposed.
“It also states that unplanned events could introduce pests, release of solid waste, impact on the seabed, create fauna collisions or spill chemicals into the lake, which will receive blasts to the tune of up to 227 decibels,” Blaschke said.
He said massive community action was needed to stop this and other environmental and human health issues occurring in and around Lake Macquarie, and a facebook page, Save Our Lake Mac, was started to alert all residents. Local recreational fisherman, Jason Nunn, said Lake Macquarie was well known as a haven for juvenile green sea turtles, dolphins and seals.
“The last time seismic testing was done in the ocean it became like a desert, and that was at 100m, imagine the damage done at 11m in shallow water,” he said.
Another local, Peter Morris, said the lake was declared a recreational fishing haven at great cost to the NSW government.
“About $20M was spent buying out commercial fishing licences along the NSW coast, and it’s appalling to see such a damaging proposal with so little consultation.
“It is unreasonable to describe it as a survey when in reality it is the damaging process of seismic testing.
“When this was done off Newcastle a few years back, the commercial fishery was badly affected with hauls of dead, rotting and stinking fish,” Morris said.

Centennial Coal has operated Myuna Colliery since 1979, extracting coal under Lake Macquarie to supply the nearby Eraring Power Station.

The advertisement about the seismic testing said that in order to understand the geology of the lake floor and ensure the ongoing safety of mine workers, Myuna was planning to survey the lake floor and underlying strata using the following techniques: Shallow marine survey using equipment being towed behind a boat to map a detailed profile of the lake floor and sediment; Rockhead drilling multiple bore holes from a barge to confirm the depth and thickness of the strata between the lake floor and the coal seam; and, an exploration drill program in selected bore holes to the coal seam to investigate the continuity and quality the of the coal seam.

The seismic testing is to be done over eight weeks.

Media release, Jan 30
Natasha Deen, Chair, Save Our Coast
Media release, Feb 3
Gary Blaschke, Community Advocate, Lake Munmorah