30 April, 2012

Pine Dale coal mine, Sydney’s toxic time bomb

Environment groups have today called on the NSW Government to reject a proposal for the 200 hectare Pine Dale open-cut coal mine in the proposed Gardens of Stone reserve that could pollute Sydney’s drinking water supplies.

Company tests have found salinity levels in the old underground mine workings that are 30 to 40 times higher than the nearby Coxs River headwatersi. The effluent could be pumped into our drinking water catchment at a rate of 10ML per dayii if the remaining scraps of coal in the area are to be mined by the proposed open-cut, said Keith Muir of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

The old underground mine holds 13,000 MLiii of eco-toxic water; forming a vast, poisonous subterranean lake. The lake holds in solution around 8,000 tonnes of mostly metal saltsiv, which if discharged into the environment, could threaten the ecological integrity of the Coxs River, which runs through the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area,” Tara Cameron of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society said.

“The Pine Dale mine’s current licence to pollute from the EPA is woeful. The licence has no standards for toxic metals or salts to limit what would be discharged into our drinking water supply if this open-cut mine goes aheadv,” said Pepe Clarke of the NSW Nature Conservation Council.

“The NSW Government’s draft Aquifer Interference Policy also would do nothing to stop potentially thousands of megalitres of eco-toxic mine waste being discharged into Sydney’s water catchment and the World Heritage Area downstream from the mine. The Policy just doesn’t protect drinking water supply catchments or natural environments from mining at all”, said David Burgess of Total Environment Centre.

“Even more concerning is the disposal of leaky electrical transformers and 44 gallon drums containing PCB’s allegedly left in the old abandoned colliery that the Pine Dale open-cut is seeking to re-minevi. PCBs are dangerous to human health. They have mutagenic effects and interfere with the hormones in the body”, said Chris Jonkers of the Lithgow Environment Group.

Pine Dale Mine proposal seeks to remove remnant coal pillars from the old Wallerawang Colliery site by open-cut methods. The plan needs to pump dry the old underground mine workings, potentially disturbing these highly toxic PCB’s and spreading this toxic time bomb into our water supplies, Mr Jonkers said.

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