January 28 - February 3, 2018: Issue 345

Wyong Coal Mine Granted Approval: Water Not Coal Becomes Coal NOT Water

Wyong Coal Mine Granted Approval: Water Not Coal Becomes Coal NOT Water

The NSW government's 'independent' Planning Assessment Commission'sapproval of the Wallarah 2 Coal Project on Tuesday January 16th has been slammed by community groups, who say the decision shows that NSW mine approval laws are inadequate and need to be urgently overhauled.

The controversial project has been fought against by Wyong locals since 1996, and has been defeated twice by the local community. The project is subject to widespread opposition – including from the Member for Wyong, and the Central Coast Council – due to the risks it poses to the drinking water catchment for over 300,000 people.

“Wallarah 2 Coal Project is completely unacceptable and completely unwanted, and its approval is a slap in the face for local people who have been fighting it off for over 20 years”, said Alan Hayes, campaign director for Wyong group Australian Coal Alliance.

“The state government is more interested in appeasing the coal industry than in the welfare of the Central Coast community. It's sickening,” said Mr Hayes. “We will be exploring every option available to us to stop this project from going ahead, including court action,” he said. 

Lock The Gate spokesperson Steve Phillips said the decision “shows just how desperately we need to fix the rules governing mine approvals in this state.” 

“This is a risky, unwanted coal mine that threatens the safe drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people. The mine has been knocked back by a previous state government for those very reasons. How is it possible that the mine is now approved? The system is broken.”

“We call on the Berejiklian government to urgently fix up our state's broken mine approval laws, to protect water catchments and local communities from mining. Local people need the certainty that once a coal mine has been knocked back, it will stay knocked back for good.

“It's grossly unfair that local people are never entitled to rest easy that a mine project has been defeated for good, that it might be approved again at any time. It’s unfair that people cannot even take clean drinking water for granted.”

"The Coalition came to power promising to end mining in sensitive drinking water catchments. They promised to stop this very coal mine – Wallarah 2 – but now they’ve given it the green light.”

Wyong group Australian Coal Alliance have run with a slogan of 'Water not Coal' for years now, with politicians quite happy to don the red t-shirt - when an election is on. 

Premier Barry O'Farrell during 2011 electioneering phase of state election with (from left) Chris Holstein (Member for Gosford), Darren Webber (Member for Wyong), Barry O'Farrell (Premier), Alan Hayes (Australian Coal Alliance), Chris Spence (Member for The Entrance) & Chris Hartcher (Member for Terrigal & Minister for Energy) wearing shirts protesting the mine. 

This week the opposite was proved.

On page 17 of the PAC's Consent Conditions the 300 megalitres required for mining will need to be returned to the water catchment, 'treated';

Central Coast Water Supply Compensatory Arrangement
17. Prior to the approval of any Extraction Plan that authorises extraction of Longwell 6N, the Applicant must establish and implement a Central Coast Water Supply Compensatory Arrangement which provides 300 megafitres per annum of water to the Central Coast Water Supply system. The Central Coast Water Supply Compensatory Arrangement must:
a) be prepared in consultation with Council and CLWD;
b) be submitted for the approval of the Secretary not less than 12 months prior to the planned extraction of Longwell 6N;
c) supply mine water treated to an appropriate level for release into the receiving environment In the Central Coast Water Supplyincluding an equivalent or better quality for pH, dissolved oxygen and electrical conductivity as the receiving environment,
d) discharge at least 300 megatitres per annum of treated water directly Into the Central Coast Water Supply system at a location mutually agreed with Council;
e) incorporate an on-line water quality monitoring system that monitors river water quality upstream and downstream of the discharge point, and has the capability to connect to and gate into Council's supervisory control and data acquisition system. in order to ensure that required water quality parameters for discharged treated water are met;
f) operate at least until the cessation of mining operations (see condition 5 of Schedule 2): and
g) include operational procedures for the compensatory water transfer system, agreed with Council, to ensure that operation of the system Is compatible with Council's water supply infrastructure.'

The mine is slated to operate for up to 28 years.

“The Central Coast is both resilient and steadfast in its fight to protect the drinking water and community health from the draconian and unacceptable destructive impacts of a longwall coal mine,” Alan Hayes said after the announcement.

“If Wallarah 2 believes that they have beaten us, they are mistaken. We will not go away.”

According to a Statement of Facts (SOF) released to the public on January 17, the Commission has determined the proposal is in the public interest.

The creation of 300 operational jobs and 450 construction jobs, along with the investment in the local area, would have significant local benefits for the community, provide investment in the Central Coast and contribute to the growth of the region,” the SOF read.

“The mine would also generate royalties for the State and the people of NSW, while providing a source of high quality thermal coal during the global transition to a decarbonised economy.

“In reaching this decision, the Commission considered carefully the concerns raised by the community, the Department of Planning and Environment’s assessment and recommendation for approval, and previous Planning Assessment Commission reviews of the project,” the SOF concluded.

The 'royalties' are estimated, now, to be around 32 million dollars. Down from the original Kores Wallarah2 announcement of one and a half billion dollars. 

The jobs being created has shrunk too, although not yet updated on theWallarah2 website where they still state, as we go to press;

'Benefits to the community will include economic stimulation with over 1100 direct and indirect jobs created during construction and over 850 direct and indirect jobs created in the region during operations.The Wallarah 2 Community Foundation will also continue to operate, with an expansion of the program to create more opportunities for vocational training and community support."

“This same Liberal administration has eroded the democratic rights of people to stand up and object to development decisions that may adversely impact on communities." Mr. Hayes stated prior to that third 'consult' in November last year where residents overwhelmingly stated their objections, again.

“Under Barry O’Farrell’s leadership, merit rights appeal on coal mine approvals was taken away.

“Then Mike Baird made it illegal for people to peacefully protest against a proposed coal mine, introducing massive fines and up to seven years’ imprisonment for doing so.

“Gladys Berejiklian’s law was recently used to override our justice system about the unlawful mine extension approval of the Springvale mine.”  - October 11, 2017.

Although the approval secured the jobs of Lithgow people and families, with no plans for shifting that community towards becoming a solar energy powerhouse in the forseeable future, irony struck at the same time as it became apparent that Lithgow residents were drinking “mine water” from the Clarence Colliery that sits on Newnes Plateau above the town.  Despite Environment Protection Authority (EPA) assurances, the mine’s environmental monitoring data indicated that nickel and lead levels in the mine water exceed the recommended limits set by Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. This had been preceded in August 2017 by a fine for polluting and killing the Wollangambe River, which flows through the Blue mountains National Park,  and all in and around it.

Most pointedly, former NSW government whip Peter Phelps hosted what he called a “Carnival of Coal”, at Parliament House on August 11, 2015, launching the 'Friends of Coal' group. Initially dreamt up to annoy those on the opposite side of The House hosting of a solar support do, the minister went on to say it was about supporting those who worked in or were working in related to coal industries, saying coal needs mates “because it has been demonised by the extreme green movement, despite it being the safest, cheapest and most reliable source of power in Australia and around the world”.

In 2008, the World Health Organisation estimated that coal is responsible for about one million deaths annually – about one-third of all premature deaths related to air pollution - so not that safe. 

When news of the 'coal party' broke, social media pictures of coal heaped up on a plate ready to eat, or coal in your drinking glass, ready to drink, were imagined as the 'nibblies and refreshments' served at the Carnival of Coal. 

The Honourable Minister then stormed off on March 22nd 2016, quitting being whip so he could vote against his own parties biofuels amendment bill to ensure all petrol stations made E10 fuel available as a cleaner alternative for consumers. Clearly not enough 'safe' carbon derivatives in the stuff to suit Mr. Phelps.

'Coal: you're drinking it!' will soon be the truer version of the Clever Country - with so much sunshine, so many beautiful places and so many wasted opportunities to do it better and do that faster, all gone.

Wonder if they played this song at the 'Carnival of Coal'?