OUR BATTLE IS NOT OVER YET!
As many would be aware, the Southern Highlands’ community recently received news that the NSW Department of Planning & Environment – through its preliminary assessment report - has recommended that the Hume Coal Project and associated Berrima Rail Project should NOT be approved.
Read the Department's media release here.
While both an encouraging and critically important development in the battle to prevent Hume Coal gaining approval, prevention of the project is not yet a certainty and a new threat has emerged.
Via Facebook, Hume Coal is encouraging its supporters to lodge submissions in support of its project in preparation for the Independent Planning Commission’s hearings, which will take place in the New Year.
Battle For Berrima is therefore asking that all members and supporters write brief submissions against the project, even if you were amongst the 12,666 to do so already, because we must continue to demonstrate the strength of community opposition.
Write your submission today at https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/have-your-say.
Written submissions will be accepted until 5pm AEDT on Wednesday 6 March 2019.
Watch and share our video here.
What happens now?
Because more than 25 submissions objecting to the proposal were received, the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) must now hold a public hearing into the project and determine Hume Coal’s development application.
The terms of reference require that the Commission:
- Consider the EIS, all 12,666 submissions received, any relevant expert advice, and other relevant information
- Assess the merits of the project, paying particular attention to:
+ impacts on surface water and groundwater resources, including on private bores
+ social and economic impacts
+ suitability of the site
- Prepare a report summarising the Commission’s actions, findings and recommendations
The Commission must hold hearings as soon as practicable and then submit its report on the public hearing to the Department of Planning & Environment within 8 weeks of those hearings.
Once the Department receives the Commission’s report, it will finalise its assessment of the project and refer the application back to the Commission for determination.
Independent Planning Commission Public Hearing Date Set
HAVE YOUR SAY!
The IPC public hearing will be held at Moss Vale Services Club, Argyle St & Yarrawa St, Moss Vale, from 10:00am on Tuesday, 26 February 2019.
Note: The IPC has tentatively set aside Wednesday, 27 February 2019 to extend the hearing to a second day should it be necessary.
If you wish to apply to speak at the public hearing, you must complete an expression of interest form and return it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org so that it is received by no later than 5pm AEDT on Friday, 15th February 2019. The registration form is available at https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/projects/2018/12/hume-coal-project-and-berrima-rail-project.
Speakers should familiarise themselves with the Commission’s ‘Public Hearing Guidelines’, prior to presenting to the Panel. The guidelines are available at https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/policies.
For more information regarding the hearing, visit the 'Hume Coal and Berrima Rail Project' page on the IPC website here.
What the report says
Within The Department’s preliminary report on Hume Coal’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) are the following statements:
‘The project is predicted to have significant impacts on a highly productive groundwater aquifer including drawdown impacts on up to 118 privately owned bores’
‘Both the Department and Dol Water (Department of Industry – Water) consider that the predicted drawdown impacts on this aquifer would be the most significant for any mining project that has ever been assessed in NSW’
On Hume Coal’s strategy to ‘make good’ when bores stop working or are otherwise affected…
‘While the proposed make good measures (e.g. deepening pumps or replacing bores) may be feasible from a strictly technical standpoint, the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy expressly contemplates the possible scenario where there are “no suitable or practical mitigation or prevention options”, and the Department considers this project represents such a case.’
And that ‘the proposed make good process would inevitably result in a large number of negotiations and disputes with local landowners, unavoidable delays to the development of the project, and significant disruption to the community.’
‘There is a substantial degree of residual uncertainty about the mine design and, in particular, the methodology underpinning the geotechnical model.’
‘The combination of an untested mining method [pine feather] and an unconventional method of storing large quantities of mine water underground is likely to result in serious operational safety risks’.
‘The Department considers that the various safety risks may lead to the transfer of additional mine water to the surface and a need to discharge into watercourses. The Applicant has not assessed this issue or proposed a water treatment plant’.
‘The Department, the EPA and Water NSW consider that any discharge of mine water (whether treated or untreated) may result in significant impacts on surface water’.
‘Further, there is a risk that the operational safety issues associated with the unconventional mine design may result in an unexpected sterilisation of coal, which may significantly reduce the economic benefits of the project’.
‘The Department notes that there are fundamental difficulties in efficiently recovering the coal resource for this project, particularly due to the shallow depth of the coal and the risk of environmental impacts’.
‘Importantly, even the Applicant’s estimated net economic benefits of $373 million is relatively low in comparison to many other coal mining projects in the Southern Coalfield and across NSW’.
The Department’s evaluation further states that the unique characteristics of the area have led to Hume Coal submitting an unconventional mine design that presents a range of uncertainties and safety risks, as well as the likelihood of significant impacts on water resources. Consequently, the Department is concerned that the project site is not suitable for the development of a new coal mine.
The Department considers that the economic benefits cannot be realised without significant adverse impacts on the environment and the local community, particularly in relation to groundwater impacts. At this stage, the Department does not consider that the economic benefits outweigh the likely adverse impacts on the environment and community.
Further, the Department considers that there is a threat of serious harm to both groundwater and surface water resources, and there is currently considerable scientific uncertainty about the level of environmental damage to both. As a result, the ‘precautionary principle’ is triggered and the project as currently proposed should not be considered an ‘ecologically sustainable development’. Consequently, based on the information currently available, the Department considers that the project is not in the public interest and should not be approved.
Read the full assessment report here.
In the news - what the media is saying about the report
Canberra Times: NSW government rejects coal mine with 'most significant' water impact. Read more here.
Southern Highlands News: Department of Planning and Environment recommends Hume Coal Project not be approved. Read more here.
ABC: Hume Coal mine gets damning assessment from NSW Government department over groundwater fears. Read more here.