08 August, 2017

Centennial's Springvale Consent for polluting coal mine in Sydney's water catchment invalid, court finds



Subject: Re: SMH: Consent for polluting coal mine in Sydney's water catchment invalid, court finds


On 2 Aug 2017, at 5:34 pm, James Tremain <NCC> wrote:
Consent for polluting coal mine in Sydney's water catchment invalid, court finds
Peter Hannam
Published: August 2 2017 - 5:10PM
Environment groups say they have scored a "massive victory" against coal mining in Sydney's water catchment area after the NSW Court of Appeal found that consent should not have been granted to a mine near Lithgow.
Centennial Coal's Springvale mine was granted a 13-year extension in 2015 by the Baird government, even though the mine was discharging millions of litres of untreated waste water directly into the Coxs River.
The river is the second largest source of water for the Warragamba Dam, which supplies most of Sydney's drinking water.
4Nature, an environment group, challenged the extension's approval, arguing it was in clear conflict with the 2011 State Environmental Planning Policy requiring any development in the catchment to have a neutral or beneficial effect on water quality.
The Appeals Court result on Wednesday overturned an earlier rejection by the Land and Environmental Court, and now requires the parties to make submissions about the mine's fate.
"The parties agreed that given the consequences for the current operations of the respondents and the users of the coal supplied by the mine, the Court should hear further submissions before making such orders," the judgment said.
"This is a massive win for the community," 4Nature spokesman Andrew Cox said. "It was a serious test - it shows you cannot just make up your own rules."
Centennial Coal said the court's decision was "obviously disappointing" but the company had prepared for it.
"A range of options have been identified and we will now proceed to implement these options to seek to ensure Springvale can continue operating without disruption," Katie Brassil, a spokeswoman for Centennial, said.
The miner would not necessarily negotiate with environmental groups, she said.
"As no orders have been issued and further submissions will be heard, it's inappropriate to speculate about the ruling," Anthony Roberts, NSW Planning Minister said.
A spokeswoman for EnergyAustralia, the operator of Mt Piper power station which sources all its coal from Springvale, said the utility was "deeply concerned about the potential for any interruption to Mt Piper's operations to impact retail energy prices".
The nearby plant, which is fed by a coal conveyor and has no facility to take coal by rail from other mines, generates about 15 per cent of the state's electricity. Together the mine and power station employ more than 600 people, EnergyAustralia said.
Despite the concern, Don Harwin, the energy minister said NSW's energy supplies were secure. "The NSW Government is committed to maintaining our energy security and taking all necessary steps in that regard," he said.
'Good precedent'
Sue Higginson, principal solicitor for the NSW Environmental Defenders Office, said the decision would have an impact on future coal or other developments across the catchment.
"It sets a really good precedent," Ms Higginson said.
Centennial Coal was left in a conundrum because it would now have to show it could operate with a neutral or beneficial effect on water quality, she said.
The NSW Environmental Protection Authority was among the agencies that raised objections to the mine's extension because of the high salinity and other contaminants - especially compared with background levels - in its waste water.
In the past, the mine supplied the waste water to the nearby Wallerawang power station until it shut down.
Without its own treatment plant, the mine discharges waste directly into the Coxs River. The pollution, as much as 19 million litres a day, would amount to about two-thirds of the flows at the discharge point.
Centennial has had a poor environment record, including allowing about 2300 tonnes of coal material to discharge from its Clarence Colliery into the Wollangambe River and the World Heritage area of the Blue Mountains in 2015.
The EPA last month fined Centennial $1.05 million, a record penalty for a single prosecution.
"It's an operator that has not shown a strong commitment to the environment," Mr Cox said, noting the company's underground mines were also "destroying endangered upland swamps".
Jeremy Buckingham, the Greens NSW mining spokesman, called on the miner to fast-track a pipeline and water treatment plant, and for the Gardens of Stone National Park to be expanded to protect the precious region.
"The government has had plenty of warnings about Centennial Coal's chronic disregard for their licence conditions and the environment," he said. "They should investigate whether Banpu, the Thai company that bought Centennial Coal in 2010, is a fit and proper person to hold a mining licence."
Discharge curbs delayed
"For years, Centennial Coal ... had known about the need to limit pollution from the mine entering the Coxs River," Chris Jonkers, a spokesman for Lithgow Environment Group, said.
"Instead, the miner delayed tighter discharge rules that were due to start on July 1, 2017."
Keith Muir, director of the Colong Foundation, warned the government against trying to change the law, saying it would be vilified if it tried that route.
"You mean you are going to allow pollution in the drinking water - how could you?"
The company now needs to negotiate and bring forward a water treatment plant that currently has consent to be built "off in the never-never", he said.
A spokesman for the NSW Minerals Council said the group would examine the court's verdict and get "our own legal advice to determine if there may be any broader implications".


James Tremain
Communications Manager
Nature Conservation Council of NSW
m: 0419 272 254 | w: (02) 9516 0206 | e:
jtremain@nature.org.au

part2.08040501.07070806@nccnsw.org

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