ABC’s “7.30” reports on Thirlmere Lakes

There was an excellent report by the ABC’s 7.30 program, examining the links between coal mining and the decline of the Thirlmere Lakes (an issue that Rivers SOS has been campaigning on for some time).

The transcript and video can be viewed here.

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“A powerful statement from Rivers SOS”

Southern Highland News
12 December, 2011

SOUTHERN Highlands representatives at the NSW Upper House Inquiry into coal seam gas (CSG) mining in Mittagong on Friday were overshadowed by a powerful statement from Rivers SOS.

Wingecarribee Council’s Larry Whipper and Scott Lee addressed the committee as did Peter Martin and Alan Lindsay from Southern Highlands Coal Action Group.

However, the witness who made the biggest impact at the hearing was Caroline Graham from Rivers SOS who received a rousing applause from the gallery.

Ms Graham spoke about the “white elephant” in the room being the “undue influence” that mining companies had over Australia’s political process.

She alluded to a recent statement by the former chief of the Environmental Protection Authority, Barry Carbon, who called Western Australia’s development approval system “corrupt”.

Mr Carbon told the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand that mining companies and other proponents were forced to make contributions, sometimes millions of dollars, to government agencies before approvals were even considered.

He said detailed environmental assessment reports, paid for by proponents, were not being read by bureaucrats because they were “too long” and that these problems “existed at commonwealth and state levels across most of the country”.

Ms Graham said there was a general “air of corruption” and “undue influence” happening in our consultancy processes.

“Consultants are writing favourable reports or removing items that the mining companies don’t like in order to submit them to the government,” she said.

“Rivers SOS is also concerned about the Planning Assessment Commission because it has been weighted by the panel of experts appointed to the Commission often, people who work as consultants to the mining industry.

“We need independent scientists to go on these panels, not people who get regular work with the mining companies.”

She said the group was not happy with the draft Aquifer interference policy which, she said, was leaving out things out such as pollution of water by CSG and high water usage.

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Windsor demands action on coal seam gas

ABC News
November 1, 2011

Independent MP Tony Windsor is threatening to derail the Government’s mining tax unless it clamps down on coal seam gas exploration and provides millions of dollars for research into the environmental effects of coal seam gas drilling.

The Government needs the support of Mr Windsor and fellow independent Rob Oakeshott, who is also said to be wavering on the tax, to secure the numbers to get the measure through Parliament.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard says while she will discuss Mr Windsor’s concerns with him, coal seam gas is “predominantly a state government matter”.

Mr Windsor says he has “had enough” of the tactics of coal seam gas companies which are exploring large areas of prime arable land in Queensland and New South Wales.

He says he does not trust assurances by the companies that mining will not affect the water table or destroy arable land.

Mr Windsor told AM the issue had been brought to a head by the activity of mining giant Santos on the Liverpool plains in northern NSW.

He said Santos part funded the environmental study that gave it the all-clear to drill.

“I’ve made it clear to the Government that this sort of nonsense from some of these companies has gone on long enough,” Mr Windsor said.

He said he wanted up to $400 million to be allocated each year from the mining tax revenue to fund bio-regional assessments to scientifically assess the impact of mining on aquifers, flood plains, native vegetation, farmland and native species.

“It would look at all the spatial landscape issues from landform, soil productivity, vegetation management, threatened species, other environmental issues, including groundwater, and surface water, and how the cumulative effects of some of these industries would impact downstream on others who are nowhere near the mining or gas activity.”

He is also demanding the Commonwealth legislate powers to give itself final approval of mining projects, effectively overriding the states.

Greens MP Adam Bandt says Mr Windsor has his party’s support and the Greens have a bill in the Senate designed to tighten environmental controls.

And he says while the Greens will try to amend the mining tax bill to include gold miners, they will support the tax even if the amendments are defeated.

“We are not in the business of blocking this mining tax but we do respect the right of others to bring to the table issues they want considered,” Mr Bandt told reporters.

It seems unlikely Mr Windsor’s demands will find support from the Government.

Ms Gillard says she is aware of the controversial coal seam gas projects mooted for Mr Windsor’s New England electorate, but says land use is not a Commonwealth matter.

“Predominantly this is a state government matter, to manage land use and resources, but of course we will discuss Tony Windsor’s concerns with him,” Ms Gillard told ABC local radio.

Mr Windsor is concerned about a dispute on a property near Spring Ridge, in northern NSW, where farmers are trying to stop Santos sinking exploratory boreholes.

A previous dispute lasted six months and Mr Windsor said people should not have to go through it again.

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Chinese conservationists seek meeting with Rivers SOS

Rivers SOS received a request for a meeting with a delegation of 15 water and soil conservationists from Shaanxi province, wanting to discuss “how to protect river systems and water sources” and “the factors which influence river health.”

The Chinese province of Shaanxi has striking similarites to NSW: coal mining is important and expanding, but in the process adding to the pollution of river systems and the destruction of groundwater sources. Water shortages loom large – groundwater is being extracted at an unsustainable rate and water treatment plants are unable to treat all contaminants successfully.

Shaanxi delegation and Mayor

They arrived on their bus yesterday, with their interpreter. We held the meeting in Wollondilly Council Chambers at Picton, thanks to the help of  Council’s Environment Officer Brad Staggs. We briefed them on the work of Rivers SOS and our campaign for a 1km safety zone around river systems to protect them from mine damage. We showed them photos of dried up swamps, polluted rivers and creeks, and dry dams round NSW.

The Mayor and General Manager of Council exchanged presents with the delegation and they were then taken to view the tragedy of nearby Thirlmere Lakes, and told of the newly released Pells report which implicated mining in the loss of water. They lunched at Tahmoor Inn before going to Warragamba for a tour with the Sydney Catchment Authority.

It seems extraordinary that they sought out a meeting with a non-government activist group like Rivers SOS. Of course they won’t have the freedom to protest as we do, but perhaps this is changing, and we will be remaining in contact.

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Pells report: Climate trends don’t explain Thirlmere Lakes dry-up

The Pells report, an independent study into the dramatic drying up of the world-heritage listed Thirlmere Lakes, has concluded that climate trends (i.e. drought) do not fully explain the lack of water.

This suggests that other factors, such as the longwall mining under the Lakes, have contributed to loss of water.

Click here to read the full press release.

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Mine’s toxic flow gives river users a scare

Sydney Morning Herald
October 22, 2011

A PLUME of toxic pollution from an old antimony mine appears to have killed fish for dozens of kilometres along the Macleay River in northern NSW.

The state government said there was no increased health risk because the contamination from the Hillgrove mine, east of Armidale, was diluted, but it has been ringing residents along the river as a precaution to tell them not to drink the water.

People living near the river and a tributary called Bakers Creek have found dead catfish, bass and shellfish, following recent heavy rain that caused a storage pond at the mine to overflow.

An investigation by the Environment Protection Authority began in August, and it estimates 900,000 litres of contaminated water entered the river when the storage pond overflowed.

”These overflows have been significantly diluted by rainfall runoff into the dam and from runoff into the creek from the catchment,” the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, said in a statement.

”The result of this rainfall is a significant dilution effect with no resultant change to background contaminant levels … water quality has not been impacted.”

But a study published by the CSIRO in 2009 described the waterways near the mothballed mine as ”highly contaminated” and estimated about 7000 tonnes of waste had accumulated along the bed of the Macleay River.

Water tests have shown antimony levels at 250 times background levels, with high levels detected along the river to the coast at Urunga, where the mineral was once processed for export.

Antimony, a silver-grey metal used in fire retardants, lead-acid batteries and electronic devices, is potentially fatal if ingested, and even small doses can cause headaches and dizziness. High levels of arsenic were also detected.

”This government is rapidly developing an abysmal record in environmental management,” said the NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who recently visited the area around the mine.

He wants a government investigation into health effects and potential loss of income for fishing and tourism operators along the length of the river.

Ms Parker said advice not to pump water from the river was ”standard advice and remains in force at all times”.

The company that owns the mine, Straits Resources, has been trying to minimise the pollution.

”They recently installed a much larger evaporator. In addition, they have been undertaking drainage work to direct stormwater away from the ponds in a bid to minimise inflows,” Ms Parker said.

The Hillgrove mine may soon be reopened after it was purchased by Ancoa NL. Gold and antimony have been mined in the area since the 1880s.

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Photos from National Day of Action

There was a tremendous turnout all across NSW for the National Day of Action against Coal Seam Gas, on October 16th. Below are photos from various events; click on the photos to view the full album.

Seacliff Bridge March - Click for more photos from Stop CSG Illawarra

National Day of Action - Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley - Click for more photos

National Day of Action - Sydney

Sydney - Click for more photos

National Day of Action - Lawson Park

Lawson Park - Click for more photos

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Bridge Walk to Stop Coal Seam Gas

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Community consultation for NSW Planning Review

The community consultation schedule for the NSW Planning Review has now been announced, and is available online at:

The NSW Government has established an independent panel to review the NSW planning system, including the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and make recommendations for reform. This process has very significant implications for local and regional environmental outcomes, and we strongly recommend that you get involved, by attending a public consultation meeting in your area.

The Co-Chairs of the review will be travelling throughout the state from September to November, attending public meetings across NSW. According to the planning review website: “The consultation process will be an opportunity for individuals, interested community groups, local councils and their staff, property developers and anyone else who has an interest in the planning system to say what they think should be the broad objectives for the new system”.

Included below is a list of useful publications and resources  for your reference.


State of Planning in NSW (2010)
Report prepared by the EDO, commissioned by NCC and TEC.


the community with the planning system (2010)
Report publishing by EDO and TEC.


from meetings between the planning review panel and key stakeholders:


footage from last month’s Ministerial Planning Forum:

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Stop coal and gas wrecking NSW

The NSW Government is sponsoring a $900 a head NSW Mineral Exploration and Investment Conference next month in Sydney. The two-day event (18/19 August) will see government and industry players coming together at a fancy hotel to discuss how to carve up NSW for coal and gas mining and destroy communities the environment and the agricultural potential of the state.

The Lock the Gate Alliance is inviting communities groups who want a different future to come to Sydney and present the other side of the impacts of mining. We need representatives from every campaign group across the state to give a clear and loud message to the government and industry.
Lets have our own conference – a conference for food, water and communities.
What: Rally at the NSW Mineral Exploration and Investment Conference 2011
Where: Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, Phillip St Sydney
When: 12noon, Thursday 18 August
Speakers: Speakers from local campaign groups around the state have been invited to address the rally – see the Lock the Gate website for updates in the next two weeks
For more information email   Register at the Facebook Event    Visit the Lock the Gate Alliance Website
Conference agenda
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