EDO clients Protect Our Water Catchment Inc apply to fight South32’s appeal in the Land and Environment Court

Originally posted on the EDO website, 02/07/2021

Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) clients Protect Our Water Catchment (POWC) have applied to join legal proceedings so they can defend the refusal of a coal mine extension south of Sydney. 

In February 2021, the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) rejected the expansion application by South 32, to extend the life of its Dendrobium mine, near Wollongong. 

It found the controversial proposal, that was opposed by Water NSW due to its potential impacts on Sydney’s drinking water catchment, was against the interests of intergenerational equity. 

South 32’s subsidiary, Illawarra Coal Holdings Pty Ltd, lodged a NSW Land and Environment Court judicial review against the refusal decision in May.  POWC, represented by EDO, have applied to join the case and defend the IPC’s decision. 

EDO Managing Lawyer Sean Ryan said “Our clients POWC, join Water NSW and the wider community in holding serious concerns about the impact of this mine on Sydney’s drinking water catchment. 

“The people of Sydney and the Illawarra have already faced water restrictions twice in two decades due to drought. Climate change will mean more frequent and severe droughts for eastern Australia. 

“On top of that, the IPC found that the greenhouse gas emissions from this mine would be significant at over 250 million tonnes over the life of the project.  In POWC’s view, this is inconsistent with Paris Climate Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. 

“We are representing POWC in their efforts to join this appeal to defend the IPC’s decision, which correctly led to the refusal of this project.” 

Background 

The Dendrobium mine, near Wollongong, was approved in 2002 and can produce up to 5.2 million tonnes of ROM coal per year. 

South32 had sought planning approval to extend the life and footprint of its Dendrobium mine until the end of 2048 and extract an additional 78 million tonnes of coal. This would have resulted in over 250 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the project.  

Based on expert advice presented to the IPC, the IPC rejected the expansion plans for the coal mine finding that the proposed mine risked long-term and irreversible damage to the Greater Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water catchment. 

The IPC also found that the project’s subsidence effects were likely to be significant, resulting in the degradation of 25 watercourses and swamps in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, detrimental impacts to biodiversity and threatened ecological communities such as upland swamps, and negative impacts on Aboriginal cultural artefacts and values.   

The IPC decided that “the loss of good quality water for future generations of Greater Sydney and the Illawarra Regions, the loss of biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural heritage all combine to a significant loss that one generation would be passing on to future generations” was inconsistent with the principle of intergenerational equity. 

The IPC found that the greenhouse gas emissions from the project would be significant, although it refused the project on other grounds. 

Federal Government Approval for Russell Vale Mine expansion delayed by at least a month

The recent “Sharma Case”, Sharma v Minister for the Environment, where the Court rules the Minister owes a duty of care to protect young people from the human health impacts of climate change, has impacts on the approvals necessary to recommence work at the Russell Vale Colliery.

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has written to the Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, insisting she needs more information about the climate effects of the proposed Russell Vale expansion to make a decision following the Sharma Case. Minister Ley now has an extension until the 8th of July to decide whether to give the Russell Vale Mine approval under the Federal Environment Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Make sure NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes says “NO” to Wollongong Coal’s ‘do-nothing’ climate plan

Telephone the Minister on (02) 8574 6707 or write to him via his contact web form at: https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/ministers/minister-for-planning-and-public-spaces

POWA at HONK! festival, Wollongong, January 2020

Wollongong Coal Ltd is preparing a plan for management of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) from Russell Vale Colliery. GHGEs will be produced as a result of diesel fuel use and electricity consumption on site. And as this is a ‘gassy’ mine, a lot of methane and carbon dioxide will be released. And then of course there’s the carbon pollution that occurs when the coal is transported and burnt.

Although it has a relatively small coal output, Russell Vale Mine is among the top 100 Scope 1 greenhouse gas emitters in Australia.

But the draft GHG management plan reveals WCL does not want to commit to any action to reduce any of these emissions.

The carefully worded draft plan says WCL will “consider” efficiency if they purchase new equipment, “review renewable energy opportunities”, “track… electricity bills” and similar actions, the outcomes of which are neither measurable nor enforceable.

There are no plans at all to minimise, avoid or mitigate any of the fugitive emissions from this expansion. Fugitive emissions comprise 99.6% of all Scope 1 emissions for this development. The 1,412,900 tonnes of fugitive GHG emissions are equivalent to the annual GHG footprint of more than 67,000 Australians.

At this time, we need to rapidly reduce GHG emissions. The NSW government must not let expanding coal mines off the hook.

Will you write to the NSW Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes and ask him to ensure that WCL will be required to implement real concrete, transparent and measurable GHG mitigation at Russell Vale mine?

“Any single source of greenhouse gas emissions is a small fraction of the total, yet the cumulative, shared problem of climate change is enormous and quite possibly existential.”(1)

The NSW government doesn’t require coal miners to take responsibility for the Scope 3 emissions released in the burning of the coal they’ve mined (86.3% of GHG emissions from this mine). At the very least, Minister Stokes should require concrete, measurable reductions of Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions from the Russell Vale Mine expansion. And the Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions which cannot be reduced should be 100% offset by Wollongong Coal.

Please phone or write to the NSW Minister for Planning now and ask him to reject Wollongong Coal’s ‘do-nothing’ draft GHG plan and instead, to ensure real, measurable and enforceable reductions from the Russell Vale Mine expansion.

Your message can be as long or short as you like and should:

(1) refer to Draft Russell Vale Colliery Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Management Plan;

(2) demand actions that are concrete, transparent and measurable to reduce the project’s GHG emissions, including fugitive emissions;

(3) demand that emissions be offset if technology is not available for mitigation emissions; and

(4) request a response to your communication.

Telephone the Minister on (02) 8574 6707 or write to him via his contact web form at: https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/ministers/minister-for-planning-and-public-spaces

(1) Expert Report on the Greenhouse Gas and Climate Implications of the Narrabri Gas Project (SSD-6456), Professor Penny D Sackett, Honorary Professor, Climate Change Institute, The Australian National University, Advice Provided to IPC NSW re Narrabri Gas Project: 9 August 2020, pg 3

Watch “The People Versus Russell Vale Mine”

A film made in 2021 by local filmmaker James O’Connor.

Hear from the water protectors. In this beautiful short film Yuin traditional owners, high schoolers and uni students, neighbours of the mine site, wildlife lovers, scientists, sports clubs and water experts show why mining under the water catchment of Illawarra and Sydney must be stopped. Like POWA on facebook to get involved https://www.facebook.com/protectourwa…

Film by James O’Connor http://jamespatrickphotography.com.au/

Music by Sam Allen “Barricade” https://www.triplejunearthed.com/arti…

Meniscus “Mother” https://meniscusmusic.bandcamp.com/

Made on the unceded lands of the Yuin, Dharawal and Wodi Wodi peoples. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Media release: Residents celebrate rejection of Dendrobium Mine Extension

Wollongong, New South Wales — Residents are this morning celebrating the Independent Planning Commission’s rejection of the controversial Dendrobium Mine Extension, holding a party outside of State Labor MP Paul Scully’s office. On Friday, the IPC rejected the proposed expansion within the special areas of the Greater Sydney Water Catchment, citing that “the risk of adverse events to the environment are high and likely to be irreversible”.

Protect Our Water Alliance (POWA) spokesperson Rada Germanos said “it is only through the hard work and commitment of our communities that this enormously destructive project has been stopped – if it weren’t for the hundreds of locals who wrote opposing submissions to the original EIS, this approval would have been rushed through. 

The IPC has made the sensible decision, the decision that protects priceless Aboriginal heritage, endangered ecosystems, as well as the water security of five million people. But this decision would not have been made if the community didn’t stand up and take action.”

Several state politicians, including Opposition Natural Resources Minister and Wollongong MP Paul Scully, expressed surprise and concern about the IPC decision, citing concerns for the job impacts in the Illawarra region. Deputy Premier John Barilaro has even vowed to attempt to overturn the IPC’s decision. This comes as the Peabody Metropolitan Mine in Helensburgh has halted production and locked its workers out for a further two months, citing a downturn in the global demand for coking coal. 

“It is clear as day that the Illawarra needs a transition plan – a plan to move us away from dirty destructive industries, and towards cleaner manufacturing technology such as Green Steel. If our politicians are genuinely concerned about jobs, then they should be focusing their energies on a just transition plan for mine workers, rather than just backing their mates in the coal lobby time and time again. The original Green Jobs Illawarra Plan was written in 2009 — and has sat on the shelf for the last decade.”

“The IPC has made a decision in the interests of the community, and the community will continue to fight to make sure this decision is upheld. POWA will continue to fight for a total ban on mining in the water catchment, a ban that will protect ecosystems, protect culture, and protect the water that we all depend upon.”

NSW Independent Planning Commission REJECTS Dendrobium Mine expansion

Independant Planning Commission’s (IPC) public engagement in late 2020 recieved 1550 unique written submissions, with 60% of those opposing the Dendrobium Mine Extension.

Ultimately, the IPC sided with the concerns of the community, and rejected the proposed expansion.

As an excerpt from the Executive Summary (p 4) explains:

“Significant concerns were raised during consultations undertaken by the Department [of Planning, Industry and the Environment] and Commission in relation to several key issues: mine design, subsidence, ground and surface water impacts, biodiversity and upland swamps, Aboriginal cultural heritage, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the ‘NorBE test’ and bushfire risk…

However, after careful examination of all the evidence and weighing all relevant considerations, the Commission has found that the longwall mine design out forward by South32 does not achieve a balance between maximising the recovery of a coal resourse of State significance and managing, minimising or mitigating the impacts on the water resources and biodiversity and the other environmental values of the Metropolitan Special Area,

For the reasons outlines in this Statement of Reasons, the Commission is of the view that the impacts of the Project outweigh the benefits from an approval, such that the Project should be refused. The Commission concluded that the level of risk posed by the Project has not been properly quantified and based on the potential for long-term and irreversible impacts — particularly on the integrity of a vital drinking water source for the Macarthur and Illawarra regions, the Wollondilly Shire and Metropolitan Sydney — it is not in the public interest.”

Read the IPC’s Statement of Reasons for Decision

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.

Longwall mining explained

Longwall mining is the most destructive form of underground mining possible.

Long gone are the days when hundreds of miners were employed to chip away at a coal seam with hand picks.

Now huge machines called shearers rip through a “wall” of coal typically 250 – 400 metres wide. As the shearer removes coal, hydraulic supports hold the roof of the coal seam up. As the shearer moves forward, the roof collapses behind it. This causes subsidence (vertical sinking) and fissures to appear in the ground above.

Have your say: make a submission to the IPC opposing the Dendrobium Mine Extension

POWA INDEPENDENT PLANNING COMMISSION SUBMISSION GUIDE

DENDROBIUM EXTENSION PROJECT SSD 8194

Dendrobium Mine lease area, 2010

BACKGROUND

The Dendrobium Mine Extension Project proposes 28 years of destructive longwall mining in the water catchment for Wollongong, Macarthur and Sydney. It will result in damage and loss of water to swamps, water courses and the Avon, Cordeaux and Nepean Reservoirs[1]. Sydney is the only city in the world that allows longwall mining in a publicly owned water catchment. The proposed mining is in the protected “Special Areas” of the water catchment upon which 5 million people rely for drinking water. Dendrobium already has the highest water loss of any mine operating in the Greater Sydney Water Catchment area. This proposed expansion would more than double the water loss from our catchment due to mining operations.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has acknowledged the damage that the expansion will cause, and yet still supports the expansion. DPIE in its assessment report says:

“Anticipated subsidence impacts include fracturing of streambeds and diversion of surface water underground; losses from the reservoirs due to increased permeability in the solid rock mass separating them from longwall voids; and impacts on surface water quality, including an increase mobilisation of metals such as iron. Stream function would be impacted due to cracking of creek beds, loss of pool holding capacity and loss of baseflow reporting to streams from upland swamps and near-surface aquifers.”[2]

The proposal seeks approval to continue longwall mining into two new areas – Area 5 and Area 6 – to mine 77.2 million tonnes (Mt) of Run of Mine (ROM) coal over 28 years, with up to 5.2 Mt ROM coal per year extracted. This would be about 80% metallurgical coal and 20% thermal coal[3].

HOW TO MAKE A SUBMISSION

You don’t have to be an expert to make a submission and your submission can be as long or short as you like.

IMPORTANT DEADLINES AND LINKS FOR HAVING YOUR SAY

Register to speak at the IPC Public Hearing

By 5.00pm AEDT Monday 23 November 2020

https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/projects/2020/10/dendrobium-extension-project-ssd-8194

IPC Public Hearing will be held online

Wednesday 2 December to Friday 4 December 2020, commencing at 10.00am AEDT daily

The IPC will notify you of the link before the hearing

Deadline for written submissions

5pm AEDT on Tuesday 15 December 2020

https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/have-your-say?project=ac3ac88d-569e-491a-a7c1-cbff0baa0c4f

MAKE YOUR SUBMISSION A ‘UNIQUE’ SUBMISSION

Our recommendation is that you write a short, unique submission which explains why you oppose this project. ‘Unique’ submissions tend to carry more weight with the NSW IPC than ‘form’ submissions. To help you, we have created this submission guide. You may choose to include some (or all) of the points below depending on your personal views about this project.

POINTS FOR OBJECTING TO THE DENDROBIUM EXTENSION PROJECT (SSD 8194)

I object to the Dendrobium Extension Project (SSD 8194)

Mining induced subsidence will damage the watercourses and swamps that feed our drinking water reservoirs

South 32 predicts that it’s 305 metre wide long wall panels may result in subsidence of 2m to 2.45m[4]. Previous mines of similar width have caused 2.5m to 3 m of subsidence, so South 32’s prediction may be conservative[5].

The mining and associated subsidence will also cause cracking of the land on the surface – including rivers, creeks, smaller watercourses and swamps that feed our drinking water reservoirs – and subsequent water loss to the catchment. No level of damage is acceptable to the Special Areas.

The mining will come to within 300m of the Avon and Cordeaux Reservoirs. It will result in water losses from Avon, which is the only source of water supply to over 310,000 residents and businesses in the Illawarra region[6], as well as Cordeaux Reservoir, which along with Cataract Reservoir is the main water supply for Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly council areas and even as far afield as Nepean Reservoir, which is the water supply for the nearby towns of Bargo, Thirlmere, Picton and The Oaks.

All three affected reservoirs, Avon, Cordeaux and Nepean also supply water to Sydney.

As an important component of the Greater Sydney Water Catchment, these reservoirs supply between 20 and 30% of Greater Sydney’s water in normal times, and in times when Warragamba is compromised by water quality (for example the 1998 cryptosporidium and giardia water crisis, or the 2019/20 black summer bushfires which burned the Warragamba catchment) they may supply even more.

In dry years, the watercourses in the mined area that flow into Avon Reservoir are expected to totally dry up.

Millions of litres of water will be lost

The cracking and dewatering of watercourses, swamps and aquifers is expected to add the loss of many more millions of litres of water each day to the 10 million litres daily water loss from Dendrobium’s current and past mining.

Dendrobium’s average daily water loss for the duration of the expansion project will be 22 million litres (ML). Water loss will peak around 2032 to 2036 at 26ML per day.[7] This is equivalent to the daily water usage of 130,000 people![8].

The existing water discharge into Allans Creek, Unanderra will double.

This is the same discharge point that was recently identified as exceeding safe levels of heavy metals.[9]

South32 wants to purchase water licenses and pay cash compensation to WaterNSW for the water they take from the catchment. This cannot possibly compensate for irreversible damage to the Special Areas and for the legacy of water loss. The water loss has been modelled for the 171 years from 2048 to 2319.[10]

Government agencies outside Planning are concerned

The NSW Government’s Independent Advisory Panel for Underground Mining has said,

“It is not possible, at this stage, to be comfortable that the worst-case losses from the surface water regime have been identified. Stream depletion can arise from combinations of reductions in overland and groundwater flow to the streams and increases in stream losses to the groundwater.”[11]

Water NSW has also questioned the reliability of the modelling stating that “previous iterations of the model had predicted surface water take at the existing Dendrobium Mine and that these predictions had increased 5-fold in the 5 years since 2014 (now 1372 ML/year)”.[12]

WaterNSW has been clear that mining in the Special Areas causes loss of yield to the reservoirs and the swamps and water courses that charge them.[13]

Damage to WaterNSW infrastructure

The mining expansion risks damage to critical WaterNSW infrastructure, including the dam walls of Avon and Cordeaux Reservoirs, the Lower Cordeaux Dam Project and WaterNSW’s Deep Water Access Project. It is even expected to cause ground movement at the dam walls.

WaterNSW’s Deep Water Access Project aims to provide water security for the Illawarra by constructing a deep water pumping system to access the reservoir’s deeper waters.[14]

Avon Dam is the only source of water supply to over 310,000 residents and businesses in the Illawarra region[15] and yet, WaterNSW says that the Dendrobium Extension Project could affect its ability to construct and operate this important infrastructure project[16].

The mining is also too close to the dam walls. WaterNSW stated that the 1000m setback from the dam walls is not enough and the setback should be at least 1500m, adding that, “Should any impacts occur to these dams, there is the potential that the risks and consequences could be extreme.”[17]

Water quality

As water courses fracture due to mining induced subsidence, metals will be dissolved and leach into the water. This will lead to an increase in metals in the water courses and reservoirs. Furthermore, this increase will worsen in the 100 – 200 year period of groundwater recovery.[18]

WaterNSW in particular expressed concern about the levels of metal contamination, stating,

“WaterNSW is concerned that any increase in arsenic (or other heavy metals) may have a negative effect on water quality and aquatic ecology.”[19]

Damage to Upland Swamps

The upland swamps of the Woronora Plateau play an important role in the water catchment by capturing and holding water, filtering it and in times of drought releasing it slowly into the creeks and rivers that feed into the reservoirs.

These swamps are also classified as Endangered Ecological Communities (EEC) and are significant in terms of their biodiversity.

The upland swamps provide a mosaic of permanently wet peaty soil within a dry sandstone landscape. Each swamp is a unique island community containing rare plants and animals. The specialised flora and fauna of the EEC also carry individual protection at species level. Dewatering the swamps will result in local extinctions in breach of multiple layers of State and Federal legislative protection.

There are 46 swamps in the mining area and 25 of these are expected to be cracked by the mining. Water drains away from swamps into the mining void, the swamps dessicate, the flora and fauna die off, and dryland species take over. The swamps lose their capacity to hold water in drier times. They are more prone to erosion and more prone to bushfire. Research shows that swamps that have been undermined are less able to recover after bushfire compared to swamps that were not undermined.[20]

Coastal upland swamps also provide carbon capture and storage ecoservices. [21] Neither South32 or DPIE have considered or estimated greenhouse gas emissions associated with expected swamp destruction, or loss of carbon uptake that the swamps currently perform.

Bushfire risk

Dewatering of the forest, bushland and swamps above the mining will make the area more prone to bushfire. The water catchment was one of the few unburnt areas of bushland in the 2020 fires and it needs to be protected from mining induced degradation. It is also close to the highly populated residential areas of Wollongong that are located along the Illawarra Escarpment; making the catchment more fire prone makes the escarpment more fire prone.

A legacy of water loss and contamination for future generations

It will take 100 years for groundwater levels to stabilise in Area 5 and 200 years for Area 6.[22] Thus the drawdown/dewatering impacts of the mining will remain long after we are gone. This is a problem that we will hand down to future generations, descendants that will be more challenged by climate change, subject to more extreme weather events, longer and more severe droughts and more serious bushfire risk.

The NSW Independent Advisory Panel for Underground Mining says that,

“At this stage, because there is a lack of clarity as to if and how Dendrobium Mine can be sealed, it should be assumed that surface losses from the catchment will occur over the long term and potentially in perpetuity.” [23]

The discharge water from the mining will also need to be managed and treated, perhaps in perpetuity, and this is another burden that we leave for future generations. Previous mining at Dendrobium has already burdened future generations with a legacy of water loss and contamination and this expansion will make it much worse.

Damage to valuable Aboriginal Cultural Heritage

A legacy of mining induced damage to Aboriginal Heritage sites at Dendrobium was recently revealed in the media.[24]

The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment[25] records and physical survey of only 6.91 % of the affected area, identified 58 Aboriginal heritage sites, including six new sites, in the area likely to be affected by longwall mining in Area 5 and Area 6. These were mostly rock shelters with/without art and deposits, and axe grinding groove sites located in creeks.

Although the DPIE’s Biodiversity Conservation Division proposed changes to South32’s mine design to avoid impacts to six Aboriginal heritage sites, changes were made by South 32 that would protect only one site. In a statement that was justifiably and understandably described as offensive by the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Department said:

“The five remaining sites are all located centrally above longwall panels. Given the limited risks of impacts, the Department does not consider that the scientific or cultural benefit of avoiding the risk of impacts is warranted.”[26]

Monitoring of Indigenous cultural sites is required but there is no requirement to preserve or avoid these sites, and no penalties to South32 when it destroys them. It is reprehensible for mining interests to desecrate Aboriginal Cultural Heritage whilst the area remains out-of-bounds for the Aboriginal community.

Locking in 28 years of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, instead of decarbonising

The IPCC 2018 Special Report warned that to limit global warming to 1.5°C then, globally, by 2030, primary energy from coal needs to have reduced by a minimum of 59 %.[27] In this context, this coal mining extension proposal spanning 28 years (to 2048) should not even be considered.

The proposal is estimated to create up to 23.7 million tonnes of CO2e in the production stage (“Scope 1 and 2 emissions”) and 237 million tonnes in the transport and consumption of the metallurgical coal produced (“Scope 3 emissions”). This brings the total emissions to between 256 million and 260.7 million tonnes of CO2e for the life of the project.[28]

The DPIE will not consider the Scope 3 emissions from the consumption of the coal, arguing that these are the responsibility of the consumer. To put the volume of emissions in context, the federal government estimates Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions for the year to December 2018 as 538.2 million tonnes.[29]

Thus, approval of this mine would lock in emissions over the 28-year life of the project equivalent to 48% of the 2018 annual emissions for all of Australia. Annually it would add an average of 9.3 million tonnes per annum (260.7 million tonnes over 28 years) of CO2e to the atmosphere.[30]

This is comparable to 1.73% of Australia’s current annual emissions.

Australia is a major greenhouse gas polluter: in 2016 Australia had higher emissions than 90 % of all countries; had the seventh highest emissions per capita; and even worse as an exporter of GHG emissions, ranked third after Russia & Saudi Arabia for exports of fossil fuel CO2e potential. Coal makes up more than 80 % of this export.

The emissions from combustion of coal that Australia sells (i.e. scope-3 emissions) are very significant. Australia needs to take responsibility for them as well and rapidly transition to zero carbon steelmaking.

NSW Government locking in 28 years of destructive coal mining is irresponsible economic planning

We need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address global warming. One of the obvious – and appropriately ambitious, given the climate emergency – ways to decarbonise industry is to start with steel.[31]

Port Kembla has been identified as having good prospects for moving from existing fossil fuel-based steel-making to making low-emissions steel. This transition would not only retain jobs in the Illawarra, it would position Australia well in the emerging low-carbon future.

No alternative is provided to this shockingly destructive expansion which will cause permanent damage to our water catchment

There should be no mining in the Special Areas of Greater Sydney Water Catchment; this is the stated position of WaterNSW and the legislated purpose of Special Area protection.

It is outrageous that DPIE not only support this destructive mining expansion, but the Department also required no alternative mine design options to reduce the damage should an expansion proceed. Having failed to explore any alternatives, the DPIE is claiming without evidence that narrower longwalls would still cause significant damage and “would come at an unsustainable economic cost” for the mining company.[32]

The NSW government requires South32 to consider alternatives, including mining in domains for which they have existing approvals and modifying the design to “avoid key sensitive surface features, including swamps and water storage infrastructure”.[33] South32 have failed to address these imperatives and yet the Department has supported the proposal rather than uphold standards of responsible planning.

In conclusion, this expansion project is not in the public interest and it should be rejected.

[1] Dendrobium Mine – Plan for the Future: Coal for Steelmaking, Groundwater Assessment for South32 – Illawarra Coal, NPM Technical Pty Ltd trading as HydroSimulations, 2019, p 101 accessed at:
https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/9696

[2] Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Assessment Report, Dendrobium Mine Extension Project, State Significant Development SSD-8194, October 2020, (“DPIE Assessment Report” p. x, Accessed at: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/projects/2020/10/dendrobium-extension-project-ssd-8194

[3] https://www.south32.net/docs/default-source/all-financial-results/fy21-quarterly-reports/quarterly-report-september-2020.pdf?sfvrsn=49faff9_6

[4] Subsidence Report for Dendrobium Mine, MSEC, 2019, pp 35 – 37, accessed at:
https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/9696

[5] Ibid

[6] WaterNSW Fact Sheet – Illawarra Water Security Project, November 2019, accessed 9.11.20 at: https://www.waternsw.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/150757/Avon-Deep-Water-Access-Fact-Sheet-Nov-2019.pdf

[7] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, P. xii

[8] On average, each person in Sydney uses about 200 litres of drinking quality water every day. From: https://www.sydneywater.com.au/sw/education/drinking-water/water-use-conservation/index.htm

[9] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-17/south32-mine-discharge-in-allens-creek-concerns-scientist/12670060

[10] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, p88

[11] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, p. 68

[12] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, p 89

[13] https://www.waternsw.com.au/water-quality/catchment/mining

[14] https://www.waternsw.com.au/projects/greater-sydney/illawarra-water-security-project#stay

[15] WaterNSW Fact Sheet – Illawarra Water Security Project, November 2019, accessed 9.11.20 at: https://www.waternsw.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/150757/Avon-Deep-Water-Access-Fact-Sheet-Nov-2019.pdf

[16] Letter from Water NSW to DPIE, Re: Dendrobium Mine Extension Project (SSD 8194) – Response to Submissions, 6 March 2020, Accessed at: https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=PAE-2101%2120200306T045644.719%20GMT

[17] ibid

[18] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, p 40

[19] WaterNSW response to Amendment and Supplementary Information – Dendrobium Mine Extension Project (SSD 8194) , 17 September, 2020, Accessed at:

https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=PAE-8943318%2120200917T022400.336%20GMT

[20] Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Enquiry, p. 241, accessed at: https://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/publications/categories/nsw-bushfire-inquiry/

[21] Cowley, K.L. & K.A.Fryirs (2020) Forgotten peatlands of eastern Australia: An unaccounted carbon capture and storage system. Science of the Total Environment. 730 (2020) 139067. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139067

[22] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, p 105 – 106

[23] Independent Advisory Panel For Underground Mining Advice Re: Dendrobium Extension Project SSD-8194 October 2020, Accessed at: https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=SSD-8194%2120201102T055834.983%20GMT

[24] https://grattan.edu.au/report/start-with-steel/

[25] Dendrobium Mine – Plan for the Future: Coal for Steelmaking. Appendix F: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment. Niche Environment & Heritage (2019) Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment. pp 26,33-34, 68, 71-72. Accessed 01/09/2019 from: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/9696

[26] Quote: DPIE Asesssment Report (Oct 2020) page xv.

[27] Figure SPM.3b, p14 IPCC (2018) Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press. Accessed 03/09/2019 from: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/

[28] Environmental Assessment Part 2, Section 6, pp 150 – 151 accessed at:

https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/9696

[29] http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/greenhouse-gas-measurement/publications/quarterly-update-australias-nggi-dec-2018

[30] Environmental Assessment Part 2, Section 6, pp 150 – 151, op cit

[31] DPIE Assessment Report, op cit, p x

[32] Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements, accessed at: https://majorprojects.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/prweb/PRRestService/mp/01/getContent?AttachRef=SSD-8194%2120190301T021109.930%20GMT