The following is extracted from an Expert Report re surface water Impacts in planned Airly Mine Extension under Mt Airly and
The surface water assessment documents provided for the Airly Mine Extension Project clearly highlight the importance of water pollution as a major environmental issue associated with the current mining activities and the proposed mine extension. The current coal mining operation is generating waste water that is highly saline and is also enriched with ecologically hazardous concentrations of metals and nutrients.
The EIS documentation indicates that larger volumes of waste water are likely to be discharged to local waterways from three discharge points as part of the extended mine operation.
The waterway currently receiving mine waste water (Airly Creek) from the current mine operation is a highly polluted waterway with degraded ecosystem health. The cause of this pollution is unclear, but is at least partly due to the current and previous mining activities.
The EIS documents propose the use of ‘site specific trigger values’ that in my opinion are inappropriate and seek to legitimise ongoing water pollution from the current mining operation to the expanded mine operation.
The existing EPA licence held by the mine for discharge of contaminated mine water currently applies no effective limits for pollutants identified in the surface water assessment. Although the EIS documentation identifies the presence of many water quality pollutants at ecologically hazardous (and probably toxic) concentrations in the current and expanded mine waste water, there are no discharge limits on these pollutants (e.g. salinity, nitrogen, phosphorous, ammonia, turbidity, zinc, nickel) in the EPA waste discharge licence (EPL #12374).
In my opinion, the expanded mine operation appears likely to continue to generate environmentally damaging waste water that will be unregulated with an ineffective EPA environmental protection licence.
Inadequate information is also presented on the likely adverse impacts on such water pollution to downstream waterways in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment and local and regional water users (agriculture, human recreation, conservation and biodiversity). Potential adverse impacts on Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area streams and rivers from the current, or future extended, mine operation is a serious omission from this EIS documentation.