Catchment gas leak as coalmine cracks – SMH

Also, check out our recent photos of the damage to the Waratah rivulet here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53515439@N05/sets/72157626103042195/
Ben Cubby ENVIRONMENT EDITOR

March 9, 2011

Bubbling up ... methane is emerging in the Waratah Rivulet.Bubbling up … methane is emerging in the Waratah Rivulet.

METHANE is bubbling up through one of the key rivers in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, after a coalmine cracked the rock underneath it.

The flammable gas is emerging in the Waratah Rivulet, east of Campbelltown, above a longwall mine operated by a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company.

The ground under the river has tilted and cracked as a result of the mine, causing methane trapped between rock strata to leak out.

”It will probably take three to four months to stop,” a spokeswoman for Peabody, Jennifer Morgan, said. ”Look, this is a completely natural occurrence in the vicinity of coalmines.

”There is no toxicity and we are sure we are in compliance with our environmental requirements. We are monitoring it closely.”

The leak was reported by the Sydney Catchment Authority, which manages the land above the mine. Catchment authority officers visited the site last week, in the company of environmentalists and a scientist.

They photographed methane bubbling to the surface and large blooms of brightly-coloured algae in the stagnant water.

The chief executive of the authority, Michael Bullen, said the group recorded methane bubbling up at various points, surface cracking, iron staining and discoloured water above the mine, but said there was no risk to human health and little likelihood of large algal blooms downstream in the Woronora Reservoir.

“The SCA is working closely with the Department of Planning to address the issues identified,” he said. It had also written to Peabody Energy seeking further information.

A Total Environment Centre spokesman, Dave Burgess, said the methane plume was obvious from the bank of the river.

”It’s outrageous that, six years after the rivulet was first damaged by coalmining, this damage continues to happen,” Mr Burgess said. ”We’d like to see a trigger mechanism where mining stops when damage reaches an unacceptable level.”

A two-kilometre stretch of the Waratah Rivulet ran dry six years ago when drought combined with cracking of the river bed, upstream from the site of the current methane leaks.

Longwall mining, which cuts broad horizontal slices of coal from about 500 metres underground, caused major cracking in bedrock beneath the river.

In a novel attempt to repair damage, Peabody is glueing the broken river back together using polyurethane resin to fill cracks between the shattered rocks.

”It’s probably about six months behind schedule … but that is purely because there has been a lot of heavy rain and the river has been flowing,” Ms Morgan said. ”But it shows we are serious about fixing any damage.”

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Mining threatens national park plan – SMH

Sean Nicholls and Ben Cubby

March 9, 2011

THE centrepiece of the Coalition’s environment platform for the state election has become a legal minefield with revelations that its planned national park on Sydney’s fringe is layered with previously unpublicised mining licences.

The discovery of the licences, over Dharawal State Conservation Area, has shocked the Coalition and potentially exposes taxpayers to tens of millions of dollars in extra compensation before the park can be created.

The Herald has obtained confidential advice from the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water that shows BHP Billiton holds two active coalmining leases ”which cover almost all of the Dharawal SCA”.

BHP also holds an exploration lease in the north of the area, and another company, Longreach Oil, holds an exploration lease for hot rocks energy.

The coal seam gas explorer Apex Energy holds a petroleum exploration licence. AGL also has a petroleum exploration licence but the company says it specifically excludes conservation areas.

The advice says that if agreements cannot be struck over compensation, legislation would be required to reserve Dharawal as a national park.

”Special legislation to change the category of Dharawal SCA would be needed to extinguish existing mining leases and approved projects, or voluntary agreements would need to be reached with leaseholders to relinquish their interests,” it says. ”Compensation issues between government and industry would need to be resolved.”

The promise to make Dharawal a national park was made by the Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, in January. But the Coalition was unaware of the extent of the leases held when it made the promise and repeated it last weekend as part of its natural environment policy.

At the time, Mr O’Farrell acknowledged that BHP held rights to mine billions of dollars worth of coal and that the Coalition ”would be having a sensible discussion with the relevant stakeholder to get the best outcome for the community”.

The opposition’s environment spokeswoman, Catherine Cusack, last night said she was ”dismayed that Labor have issued more licences and is even considering the renewal of existing leases.

”This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect a fragile area that meets the highest criteria of conservation values.”

BHP has paid application fees to the Department of Industry and Investment to renew its leases, one of which expired last September. The other expires in September. The advice notes that ”a lease is deemed to continue to have effect after expiry if an application has been made and fees paid until the application is dealt with”. Continue reading

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Rivers SOS Screening of Gasland in Campbelltown

Rivers SOS organised a screening of Gasland at Campbelltown Arts Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Our guest speaker was John Hatton who opened with a fiery condemnation of corruption in the approvals process for mining and CSG extraction, adding that both major parties were/would be equally culpable. He described his recent tour of mining operations around Mudgee and the shocking impact on local people and their environment.

John Thompson from Broke, of the Lock the Gate Alliance, also spoke passionately of the campaign by farmers to keep gas exploration off their properties, and asked for support for the rally on 20 March (12 noon in Martin Place). Continue reading

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Minister scuttles longwall coalmine plan – SMH

Ben Cubby ENVIRONMENT EDITOR

March 5, 2011

THE Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, used the last few hours before the government went into caretaker mode to block a controversial coalmine plan for the central coast.

The Wallarah 2 mine would have been located beneath the seat of Wyong, held by Labor’s David Harris with a margin of 6.9 per cent.

Korea Resources Corporation, which is partly owned by the Korean government, was proposing to remove 4 to 5 million tonnes of coal a year for 42 years. Continue reading

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Genowlan Mountain and Mt Airly Reserved at last

After a 30 year campaign, two dramatic plateaus (Genowlan Mtn and Mt Airly) in the Capertee Valley have been reserved as the 3,600 hectare Mugii Murum-ban State Conservation Area.  This scenic and biologically diverse area is a key part of the Gardens of Stone reserve proposal and was initially proposed for intensive coal mining that would have caused the ground to collapse 1.8 metres, but the mining intensity has been wound back.

“Environment groups congratulate the Keneally Government for resolving this conservation versus coal issue and are very pleased that Centennial Coal will now mine in a less intensive manner that will not cause ground subsidence damage in the new reserve.  The area’s outstanding sandstone features – its hundreds of pagodas, deep gorges, slot canyons and tall sheer cliffs will now be protected for all time”, said Keith Muir Director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness. Continue reading

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Congratulations Australian Coal Alliance!

A huge new coal mine in Wyong has just been rejected. Congratulations to the activists in the Australian Coal Alliance, from Rivers SOS!

The ACA was one of our first support groups, when Rivers SOS was formed in 2005, and we have kept in touch with Alan Hayes, Ron Sokolowski and Mike Campbell ever since –  in fact we have picked their brains for advice and information. At that time they had emerged victorious over CSG issues, going under the name of Australian Gas Alliance, and now, re-named the Australian Coal Alliance, they’ve had another triumph with Tony Kelly’s decision today to refuse approval for Wallarah 2. Continue reading

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State Government rejects Kores coal mine plan for Wyong

Central Coast Express Advocate
4th March 2011

The NSW Government today rejected the Wallarah 2 coal mine proposal near Wyong due to unresolved concerns regarding subsidence, water, ecological and heritage impacts.

This is despite a Planning Assessment Commission recommendation that it be approved.

NSW Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, said the proponent, the Korean-based company Kores working as the Wyong Areas Coal Joint Venture, had not adequately demonstrated the mine could go ahead without unacceptable environmental risk.

“The reality is, despite a lengthy and rigorous assessment, there remained simply too much uncertainty about the mines potential risks and, as such, I have decided the mine should not be approved,” the Minister said.

“The assessment process has been extensive, with a review undertaken by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), and an independent assessor outside of the Department of Planning engaged to assist in preparation of the final report.

“I am confident the right decision has now been made.”

Wyong State LAbor MP David Harris hailed the decision as a victory for common sense.

He said it had vindicated his position to oppose the project since 2007.

The coal mine issue first raised its head 15 years ago and some, like Mike Cam[pbell of the Australian Coal Alliance, has been actively fighting the proposal since that time.

He described the announcement as a victory for the community who had repeatedly said they didn’t want the mine.

Wyong mayor Doug Eaton said the council’s surveys had shown that 82 per cent of the population were opposed to the mine.

There’s specualtion that the Korean company Kores, which had made the application may now be considering options to apply for new mining rights in the Gunnedah basin.

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$600m NSW coal mine proposal scuttled

ABC News Online
4th March 2011

The New South Wales Government has refused permission for a $600 million coal mine in a key central coast electorate.

Mining firm Kores, which is owned by the South Korean Government, had planned to extract 5 million tonnes of coal a year from the Wallarah 2 mine, near Wyong.

The long wall mine was also expected to employ 300 people.

Planning Minister Tony Kelly says water and subsidence issues led to his refusal.

“The Planning Assessment Commission had suggested it could go ahead with a significant number of conditions that could be worked out later on, and I believe there were too many uncertainties,” Mr Kelly said.

Alan Hayes from the Australian Coal Alliance says locals were united in their resistance, from the Wyong Council to businesses and residents.

“I think there will be champagne corks popping today,” Mr Hayes said.

Wyong’s sitting Labor MP David Harris had objected to the mine, while the State Opposition had promised to block it.

Labor holds the seat by a margin of 6.9 per cent over the Liberal Party.

Mr Kelly’s decision to refuse permission comes just two days after he moved in favour of the Barangaroo development in central Sydney.

The minister issued an order of Wednesday that weakens a legal challenge to the project in the state’s Land and Environment Court.

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Can’t eat coal, can’t drink gas: NSW election rally

Coal and coal seam gas mining are expanding at an unprecedented rate, threatening our farmland, our climate, our communities, and our water.

Join environmentalists, farmers and concerned citizens from across NSW to take action to protect our irreplaceable farmland and environment.

Sunday 20th March
12 noon
Martin Place, Macquarie St, Sydney

Find this event on facebook

Continue reading

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Forum: health impacts of mining

You might have heard about the environmental impacts of coal mining, but what about the human health impacts?

The Lock The Gate Alliance is hosting an experts forum on the topic, addressing:

  • links between the health of the environment and human health
  • impacts of open-cut coal mining and coal-fired power stations on human health
  • coal seam gas water contamination issues
  • impacts on mental health for communities impacted by mining

Where: The Auditorium, Teachers Federation House, 39-41 Reservoir St, Surry Hills
Time: 10.30am-1.30pm
Date: Wednesday March 9

Entry is by donation.

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