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Media release

New report reveals Engie’s Hazelwood mine rehab plan will release toxic coal ash pollution

September 19, 2022

New reports reveal Engie’s Hazelwood mine rehabilitation proposal would release toxic coal ash pollution harming community health and the environment. 

Experts in the field also found new alternatives including filling the mine void with solid material was viable and more beneficial to the community.

Two independent expert reports, sought by Environmental Justice Australia, on mine rehabilitation and coal ash found that while Engie is pursuing the cheapest plan to rehabilitate the Hazelwood mine pit, evidence shows this will come at serious detriment to the community and environment.

“These reports, highlight the importance of a thorough process to look at all viable options for rehabilitation, accounting for the toll on community and the environment, rather than mine operators’ bottom line,” Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer Chloe Badcock said.  

“All coal mine operators have a responsibility to effectively clean up coal ash, because the impacts of coal mining don’t end when the digging stops.”

A report by geologist and hydrogeologist Dr Steven Campbell found Engie’s proposal to flood the mine without removing toxic coal ash would “more likely than not release floating coal ash that will be visible as a white film of ash on the rising pit lake”.

“The coal ash in contact with water will leach toxins such as heavy metals, and those pollutants will become mobile in the lake.” 

Dr Campbell recommended coal ash be removed from the pit before flooding, noting this hadn’t been considered in any of Engie’s publicly available documents.

A second report by geophysicist Dr David Chambers found filling the mine pit with solid material, such as soil, was not only a viable option but would likely be the best outcome for the community and the environment.

Dr Chambers found filling the mine pit with solid material has been “assiduously avoided” as it is “considerably more expensive” but Engie’s current proposal to fill the pit with water comes at a far higher cost to the community.

Ms Badcock said: “We know filling the mine pit with water has been identified as potentially unviable and unsustainable by a state government inquiry, while alternatives including solid fill were dismissed purely due to cost to operators. These options should be revisited now that we know more about the significant impacts of water-based rehabilitation options”

Friends of Latrobe Water Secretary Tracey Anton said: “Engie’s proposal to flood the mine void would take decades and use more water than is in Sydney Harbour, 638 billion litres, plus another five billion litres every year just to offset evaporation,”

“We cannot keep taking water out of the Latrobe River and putting contaminated water back in with further detrimental effects on the whole system through to Gippsland Lakes.

 “These reports shed light on what best-practice rehabilitation could look like in the Latrobe Valley. We cannot allow mine operators to put forward the cheapest option with no evidence and research into better alternatives.”

Contact: Media advisor, Kathryn Lewis, 0411 670 886, [email protected] 

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