Farmers on the Liverpool Plains have expressed alarm at a NSW planning department recommendation to give the huge open-cut Watermark coal mine, near Gunnedah, the green light.
Caroona Coal Action Group spokesman Tim Duddy said the proposed mine was being recommended for approval despite major questions hanging over the extent of the impact it will have on the Namoi River and alluvial aquifer.
‘These water sources feed some of the state’s most productive food and fibre farmland,’ Mr Duddy said.
‘If you needed any more evidence that the state government’s promises to protect agricultural land from coal mining have not been delivered, then this is it.
‘They don’t even know what this mine will do the Namoi River and alluvial aquifer, but are recommending it be approved, and telling us we’ll find out what the impact will be later.’
Among the conditions to the approval are several that indicate that the environmental impacts of the project on the water supply and tributaries of the Namoi River have not yet been addressed.
The company will need to complete a Water Management Plan to detail ‘the sources and security of water supply’ and describe measures they will implement ‘to minimise short term and long term discharge of saline water from the site’.
‘They’ve recommended approval but asked for more study to be done into whether this mine will ruin the land with salt. It’s irresponsible and we won’t stand for it. This recommendation is a grave mistake,’ Mr Duddy said.
‘The Independent Expert Scientific Committee’s warnings and advice on this project have not been heeded. The committee recommend that mine water storages be designed to contain a 1 in 1,000-year storm event, but this is not reflected in the conditions of this proposed approval.
‘What will downstream users do if a flood of salty mine-affected water comes down the Mooki River?’
The Independent Expert Scientific Committee also warned that together with the next door Caroona coal mine proposal this mine will cause a reduction in flow to the Namoi River equivalent to about half the current water extraction from the regulated Namoi below Keepit Dam.
‘Together the two mines could cause drops in the water table of more than 10 metres across the Gunnedah water management area.’
Lock the Gate Alliance national coordinator, Phil Laird said the state government should be taking a more conservative approach to protecting the water resources of the Liverpool Plains.
‘The state government doesn’t know if there will be enough water to feed this mine’s voracious thirst and appears ready to let the Liverpool Plains be run dry and turned to salt by two of the biggest mines in the state, dug right next to each other,’ Mr Laird said.
‘Among the conditions is a request that the company ensure it has enough water for the development, and to reduce it if there is not enough water available.
‘Why would they recommend approval without this information? They are letting the coal companies run this state.’