MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s New South Wales water authority has lodged a strong objection to a planned extension of the life of a coal mine operated by South 32 because of its predicted impact on water resources that support Sydney.
The Dendrobium metallurgical coal mine is part of South 32’s Illawarra metallurgical coal division in the southern coalfields of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, about 75 kilometers (46.6 miles) south of Sydney.
South 32 has applied to the state and federal government to extend the mine life out to 2048.
WaterNSW strongly objected to the extension of the coal mine in the form as planned, in a submission to the New South Wales Department of Planning’s major projects division.
“There is now strong evidence that the impacts from existing mining at Dendrobium are greater than predicted when the mining was proposed and approved,” it said.
The project must be assessed in line with the latest scientific understanding and policy settings, it said, adding that South 32 had not provided adequate information on alternative mine designs that had fewer environmental impacts. The authority said that the predicted impact of the project on water resources and ecology were unacceptable because it would impact its ability to protect and enhance the quality and quantity of water for the Sydney catchment area.
It would also fail to maintain the “ecological integrity” of the land, putting into danger 26 swamplands in the surrounding area located above the mine workings due to fracturing of the bedrock beneath the swamps, which could change their ecological functioning and make them more fire prone.
South 32 said in an emailed statement that the miner took its environmental responsibilities seriously and understood the sensitivities of the region.
“We will not mine under water supply reservoirs, named watercourses and key stream features,” it said, adding the project would sustain 400 jobs and add 100 more.
The miner said that it was working through the submission and would provide responses to the government.
Australia, which is suffering from several prolonged droughts in the north of the state, has had an early and severe start to its bushfire season this year with two fatalities recorded this week.
The planned mine extension could also cut up to 3.3 gigaliters a year of surface water from the drinking water catchment that could lower local supplies by between 3-4%, the authority said.