27 April, 2015

Airly Mine Update by CVA Inc member of the new Community Consultative Committee 21/4/2015.

Capertee Valley Alliance Inc. speaks out.


Hi – Donna Upton from Capertee Valley Alliance  attended the Airly CCC at the mine on a wet and windy Tuesday, meeting chaired by Gerard Martin. Bob Miller was key Centennial person there and David King is the subsidence engineer, Greg Brown Environment Officer was also there.
Mine details
58 staff producing 680,000 t coal a year currently, 1 year into a 4 year mine plan. (MEP)
There were enough negative submissions in regard to the Full  Project Extension that there will be a PAC inquiry –  this will be held and CVA and other community groups will need to prepare for this, date TBA and venue CVA hopes will be held in one of the local community halls.( PAC means   is Planning and Assessment Commission).
Coal % to be extracted
David King confirmed the following proposed coal extraction
Shallow zone – 31%
High cliffs – 31%
Partial pillar zone – 51%
Panel and pillar (most of mesas) – 67%
Splitting and quartering – 51%
Member of the CCC, Dr Haydn Washington stated to the committee members, Chaired by Gerard Martin (previous Labour Local Member) that Mary-Anne Crawford of Centennial had assured Environment Groups, that only half the coal would be extracted. David King looked uncomfortable and said that when you added in the other zones then only around 51% of coal would be taken! (CVA and Dr Washington doubt this as panel and pillar zone most of the area). Dr Washington said this was not the promise, that it referred to maximum extraction of any particular area.  Mr King had no response other than to say that the 30 metre wide pillars are stable and ‘would be there forever’. Bob Miller confirmed to the committee the price of coal had halved from a few years ago, but they still maintained that maximising coal extraction was not the key driver behind upping the extraction %.
CVA's  two key concerns:
1)      Collapse of major internal cliff lines in the panel and pillar zone where 67% extraction is planned
2)      Collapse of the very high (60 metre plus 100 metre steep talus) cliffs of Genowlan Pt and Pt Hatteras
CVA wants to  hold them to the former promise re 50% maximum extraction.  CVA believes that stopping any extraction under the high cliffs as a limited area. It is all a question of risk. Centennial has had their subsidence work Peer Reviewed and expect us to accept what another bunch of ‘geostitutes’ say and in particular in response to independent submissions from highly qualified experts that CVA Inc. and other groups had to pay for.
      Dr Washington pointed out that the voids allowed under reservoirs are much narrower because of the risk and that this should apply to a SCA of very high conservation value such as Genowlan Pt and Mt Hatteras. It may be that the mine is not viable if they only take half the coal, but that is not the community's problem. If Airly cannot be mined safely it should not be mined at all.

 CVA needs to get Phillip Pells involved and speaking at the inquiry as well as Ann Young – both focusing on the unacceptable risk being proposed for an area that the WHAC (World Heritage Committee) thinks should be added to the WHA. 
Dr Pells may require some funding to attend the PAC, and hopefully CVA Inc.  members and Capertee Valley residents  can financially assist there? It has already cost the community $6500 plus unbelievable volunteer hours over many years.  This in itself is so unacceptable that the community has to come together to point out the risks by way of submissions and pay out of their own pockets to respond to the inadequacies of the EIS and other concerns to protect the Environment, Agriculture, Tourism and social and economical  impacts to the 1000 residents who live adjacent to the WHA of Wollemi National Park, Gardens of Stone, Capertee National Park and the Mugii Murum ban State Conservation Area.

To allow Mining in an area of World Heritage Significance is desperate and greedy, approval to these areas  just supports and indicates something is terribly 'skewed'.

 It is almost obscene that the existing Airly mining lease ( ML)1331 was approved in the first place DA 162/91 granted on 14 April 1993,  signed by Mr Obeid and McDonald (we believe), mostly closed over lengthy periods until 2009 when prior Novacoal sold to Centennial which sold to a Thailand Company Banpu. Closed in 2012, dismissed staff only to re-open in 2013 when their Charbon mine was scheduled to close and transferred some of their staff to Airly Mine. CVA understands that Centennial was in the Supreme Court about redundancies for employees over 60.
PAC approved  ( at which CVA  and other Groups attended in Sydney but the PAC was closed to the general public) to extend the life of the consent from 12 October 2014 to 31 October 2015 (MOD3) 
Then in September 2014 less than two months Centennial submitted Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Airly Mine Extension Project (the Project).

Airly Mine is a "STATE Significant Development (SSD) 5581 and mining coal underground has the potential to impact on matters of environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).
CVA lodged a submission to the Commonwealth Department of the Environment (DOE) in December 2013, the "Project" was subsequently declared a controlled action on 24 December 2013. The DGR's were re-issued on 4 FEBRUARY 2014 WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT'S REQUIREMENTS.
The Project is being assessed under the bilateral agreement with New South Wales in accordance with the Part 5 of the EPBC Act.

Centennial's  timeline to submit (ML) 1331 MOD 3 and then the EIS for the "Project" A232 so close together in which the  community to respond a second time  was totally unreasonable, creating anxiety and stress and inappropriate expense  to the community.
To continue the ongoing saga;

Subsidence , Environment, Surface and Ground Water and the economic viability of Airly Mine is still an issue with CVA Inc. 

Office of Water in Response to Submissions addressed a letter  to Planning Officer, Resource Assessments Dept of Planning & Environment have suggested if the project development is approved a condition of consent  requires that Airly Mine  develop a Groundwater Monitoring and Modelling Plan (GMMP) in consultation with The Office of Water that includes rules for the management of groundwater level impacts to protect Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems.
This Plan should be developed in line with the Office of Water guideline "Groundwater Monitoring and Modelling Plan - Information for prospective mining and petroleum exploration activities (2014).

IESC (Independent Expert Scientific Committee) on Coal Seam Gas and large Coal Mining Development advice stage assessment dated  14 November 2014 in respect to how the EIS relates to matters of national environmental significance states  in the Assessment against information guidelines considered whether the proposed project assessment had used the following:
Relevant data and information: key conclusions

While there is generally sufficient baseline surface water quality data available, there is no baseline surface water hydrology data for Airly Creek. Little information is available on the existing workings in the New Hartley Shale Mine Potential Interaction Zone and as a result, the potential subsidence effects and associated impacts on surface water and groundwater resources are uncertain. There is little aquatic ecology data available for downstream environments as sampling for macroinvertebrates and fish was restricted to the proposed area, except for two sites on Dog Trap Creek.

That  the key uncertainties and risks of the proposed project include the nature and extent of downstream impacts on Airly Creek; identifying potential water related assets within the Gardens of Stone National Park; and groundwater drawdown and subsidence, with associated effects on mine inflows, baseflow reductions to Gap and Genowlan Creeks and potential GDEs within the proposed project area. In order to address these risks and uncertainties a robust groundwater, surface water, aquatic ecology and subsidence monitoring and management framework is needed.
You can read the full report by accessing:

Economic Assessment
CVA Inc. contends that The Australian Institute (TAI) Roderick Campbell put in a pretty strong submission not only for Centennial Airly Mine but Angus Place and Springfield which perhaps may have placed  the Department of Planning and Environment on alert and commissioned The CIE to provide a Peer review of the economic assessment on Centennial Angus Place, Springvale and Airly Mine Extension Projects submitted by Centennial's consultant
Then CVA Inc. read in the Newcastle Herald dated 31 March 2015 (by Joanne McCarthy) that "The NSW Department of Planning is proposing new guidelines to assess coal mines that allow mining companies to withhold more information about the financial costs and benefits of mining projects from the public.
The draft guidelines could also controversially consider biodiversity offsets as benefits to the community after lobbying the mining industry. biodiversity offset land is bought to compensate for the destruction of areas to make way for mines. Reclassifying them as a benefit to the community rather than a cost will enhance the economic argument for a mine project"
The draft guidelines are being developed in consultation with the mining industry (NOT the every day taxpayer) to replace Department of Planning and NSW Treasury guidelines prepared in 2012.

The changes are in response to scathing criticism by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission of some mine economic assessments, and the Department of Planning for uncritically accepting those assessments.
But an independent report of a Newcastle company's economic assessments of three NSW coal mine projects in January, where the new draft guidelines were quoted and appeared to underpin an "unorthodox" new approach to economic assessments, found the assessments lacked transparency and made it " difficult to verify the calculations".

The Centre for International Economics (CIE) report found the AIGIS Group's cost benefit analyses of Centannial Coal's Airly, Angus Place and Springvale mines were "inconsistent with well-established principles and the NSW Government's November 2012 Guideline for the use of cost benefit analysis in mining and coal seam gas proposals".

"The CIE report, commissioned by the Department of Planning, found some methods used in the AIGIS reports were likely to significantly overstate the true net economic benefit to the local community".

CVA Inc. maintains this approach is nothing short of ' OUTRAGEOUS'.

To quote an article in the Business Spectator article by Rod Campbell 20 April  Climate/Energy Markets/ Policy & Politics.

"Imagine this, You're a State Government minister. Your department and the most powerful industry it regulates are under fire for failing to comply with your government's own guidelines.
Courts, the media and community groups keep complaining that the industry breaks the guidelines and your department lets then get away with it.
Even the consultants you commission to write an "independent" review end up saying that the industry is acting "in a manner that is inconsistent with well-established principles and the NSW Government's November 2012 Guideline."
What do you do in this situation? You could install some discipline in your department. You could crack down on the rogue industry...
... or you could change the guidelines".

CVA Inc. who represents and supports the community of the Capertee Valley is appalled by what  our community group have uncovered/discovered and laughed at in relation to issues that the community have raised.

It shows that all of us need to challenge, explore, what is happening in NSW and how mining companies provide less than transparent adequate safeguards/information for not only people who live as neighbours of Airly Mine but the tax payer's of NSW today and future generations and all  at the expense of other industries in the Capertee Valley Agriculture, Tourism and small businesses.

(Sorry for the length of this update... it has been a very complicated and time consuming process for volunteers).
I think this saga requires a book to be written and call it "Lacking in Confidence" or :
Sorry to future Generations, or "Who does the Federal, NSW and Local Governments truly Represent, or " The Plot thickens and Policy Evolves".

We don’t know the date for the PAC yet but it may be held at Capertee or at Glen Alice .

Next Airly Mine CCC  meeting July 28th.

Issued by CVA Inc.

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