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Environment groups welcome Minister’s decision for Engie’s Hazelwood Mine rehab plan to undergo environmental assessment

February 09, 2022

Environmental Justice Australia and Environment Victoria have today welcomed Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s decision requiring the Hazelwood Mine Rehabilitation Project to undergo the Environmental Effects Statement process. 

For more than five years, the Latrobe Valley community has called for clarity on the fate of the Hazelwood mine pit which operator Engie plans to flood, turning it into an artificial lake using natural water sources including groundwater. Local Latrobe Valley community groups have led the call for a thorough, transparent EES for the mine site. 

It could take more than two decades to turn the mine void into a ‘pit lake’ and would require an estimated 638 billion litres of water, or more water than Sydney Harbour, according to the Latrobe Valley Rehabilitation Strategy. Engie’s proposal would require an extra five billion litres of water each year just to offset evaporation.  

“We welcome the Minister’s decision today to require Engie to undertake this assessment of the true extent of the environmental impacts of the proposal on the Latrobe River system and the Latrobe Valley community,” Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer Chloe Badcock said. 

“It is critical this process not only includes a thorough assessment of the impacts Engie’s proposal would have on the health of the Latrobe River system and the Ramsar listed Gippsland Lakes, but on the Latrobe Valley community, who suffer the deadly health impacts of toxic pollution from coal mines and coal-fired power stations. 

“We know the Latrobe River system is already under threat and taking so much water will harm the entire ecosystem and Aboriginal cultural values of the Latrobe River, its estuary and the internationally important Gippsland Lakes.   

“It’s important the EES assesses alternatives that don’t rely on natural water sources, including recycled and desalinated water. Engie must be transparent with the community about the likely implications of these on future water uses and recognise the crucial role of a safe rehabilitation plan as the community transitions to renewable industries.” 

Friends of Latrobe Water spokesperson Tracey Anton said: “The EES should also identify the potential for cumulative effects of mine rehabilitation in the region on the Latrobe River system.”  

AGL has already proposed to flood the mine pit at Loy Yang A, due to close in 2048, which would take a mammoth 1,420 billion litres to fill, while the Yallourn mine pit would take 725 billion litres to fill with water. 

“Filling Hazelwood mine pit would require more water than in Sydney Harbour, and that’s just one mine site in the Valley. The total volume of water needed to turn all the mine pits into lakes is just staggering,” said Laura Melville, a Gippsland Community Organiser at Environment Victoria. 

“If the mines are filled with water from the river system, that leaves less for the local environment. It also means less water for agriculture and other industries across the region. The government’s ecological assessment talks of ‘escalating impacts’ and ‘multiple interconnecting threats’ 

“Mine operators will need to look at alternative sources of water such as recycled water or desalination, or they might need to change plans and prepare for options that don’t involve using such a precious resource,” she said. 

Media contact: Kathryn Lewis, EJA media advisor, 0411 670 886, [email protected] 

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