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23 Nov 2020

Protecting our Drinking Water

In March 2020, the NSW Government granted planning approvals for an expansion of coal mining operations under Woronora reservoir, one of Sydney’s key drinking water catchments. This new expansion will see new coal faces established under the Woronora Dam, which is one of Greater Sydney’s key drinking water catchments. Up to three new underground coal faces will be established at the mine, with two of them running below the dam’s water storage.

Today I attended the online annual meeting of LGNSW, which supported the motion I put to the City of Sydney about mining in drinking water catchments in NSW, including Woronora. 

 

This decision to allow coal mining under the Woronora reservoir poses a direct threat to the drinking water of millions of Sydneysiders.

Mining activities under the reservoir could compromise the integrity of the water storages, potentially leading to leakages, and flow on environmental damage to the surrounding water table and the quality of drinking water supplies. The full impacts of these underground mining operations will not be known for several decades, and changes in the geological structures below the dam could continue well after the final coal has been extracted from the site. The roof of the mine has the potential to collapse if abandoned, meaning the threat of contamination to Sydney's water supply will remain indefinitely.

As reported by the ABC in August 2017, the abandoned Berrima Colliery was found to be releasing increasingly polluted wastewater into the Wingecarribee River which, like the Woronora reservoir, also feeds into Sydney's water supply, despite the mine closing in 2013. This this contamination only emerged in 2015, according to the Environment Protection Authority, two years after its closure.

Here is the motion supported by Local Government NSW:

1. That Local Government NSW notes:

(i) the NSW Government has recently granted planning approvals for an expansion of coal mining operations under Woronora reservoir, one of Sydney’s key drinking water catchments;

(ii) the new expansion will see new coal faces established under the Woronora Dam, which supplies drinking water to Sydney. Up to three new underground coal faces will be established at the mine, with two of them running below the dam’s water storage;

(iii) this decision to allow coal mining under the Woronora reservoir poses a direct threat to the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders;

(iv) mining activities under the reservoir could compromise the integrity of the water storages, potentially leading to leakages, and flow on environmental damage to the surrounding water table and the quality of drinking water supplies; 

(v) the full impacts of the underground mining operations will not be known for several decades, and changes in the geological structures below the dam could continue well after the final coal has been extracted from the site; and

2. That Local Government NSW:

(i) opposes the approval of long-wall coal mines under Sydney's drinking catchments;

(ii) lobbies the NSW Government against the issue of long-wall mining approvals under Woronora reservoir, and other mines which have the potential to risk contaminating Sydney's drinking water supply; and

(iii) opposes the approval of any mines which have the potential to contaminate drinking water supply of any community in NSW.