Media release: Community group condemns NSW Planning as Independent Planning Commission approves controversial Russell Vale mine expansion

Wollongong, New South Wales — Community group Protect Our Water Alliance has expressed outrage at the NSW government Independent Planning Commission’s approval of Russell Vale mine expansion despite widespread community opposition and ongoing uncertainty about the damage that it will cause to the Special Areas of Greater Sydney Water Catchment.  However, Russell Vale still requires approval under the EPBC Act as a controlled action and while the IPC was not required to consider Wollongong Coal Ltd’s fitness to carry out the mining, the federal approval will require this.

Protect Our Water Alliance (POWA) spokesperson Kaye Osborn said “Throughout the IPC decision process it became clear that the NSW Department of Planning and Minister Rob Stokes don’t actually know how much damage this mining expansion will do to our water catchment.  It’s concerning that they have such disregard for our vital water resources when less than a year ago we were in crippling drought.”

Wollongong Coal will mine up to the shores of the Cataract Reservoir, which supplies water to Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly, and is a backup supply for Greater Sydney.  The bord and pillar mining method which will mostly be used is expected to be less damaging than longwall mining.  However the expansion area is already riddled with historic mines making it unstable; with key risk factors for cracking and subsidence unknown due to inaccessibility of the old mine workings, even the Resources Regulator said “we are in the dark in making decisions in relation to Russell Vale Colliery’s proposed revised underground expansion project”.

“It will be residents and taxpayers who will pay the price of this mining expansion through further damage to the water catchment, more pollution of our air and waterways and accelerating climate change,” said Kaye Osborn.  “The 118 conditions of consent are useless if the NSW government will not monitor and enforce them and Wollongong Coal has a long track record of serial non-compliance with conditions of development approval.”

“The IPC has also failed to address the issue of water discharge from the adits in Russell Vale, merely requiring the company to “make a plan” for how they are going to deal with the water outflow that is expected to commence in 2057.  The NSW government is leaving a legacy of catchment damage, water loss and contamination, an eternal cost of mining for future generations to pay.”

“The IPC was not required under the EP&A Act to consider whether the proponent is “fit and proper” to carry out the mining in a responsible and compliant manner.  However, the project still requires approval under the EPBC Act, which does have a requirement to consider the environmental history of the applicant. This will be an interesting process for Wollongong Coal Ltd and is the next hurdle that the miner will need to jump.” 

“POWA will continue to oppose the Russell Vale mine expansion, and all mining in our water catchment.

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