Press Release - December 15, 2022

Delta Coal fails to paint a true picture of Chain Valley mine proposal risks, expert says

15 December 2022

A geotechnical engineer and mining expert says Delta Coal’s proposal to prolong the operations at its Lake Macquarie mines has failed to provide the community with a true picture of the risks it poses to the environment.

Delta Coal proposes to dig up an additional 9.5 million tonnes of coal from Chain Valley Colliery and Mannering Colliery by prolonging their operations by two years, until 2029. This could impact water quality and aquatic ecosystems and seriously harm community health.

Acting on community concerns over the project, Environmental Justice Australia commissioned Canadian-based geotechnical engineer Gordon Johnson as an independent expert to review Delta’s environmental impact statement for the proposal.

Mr. Johnson, who has over 35 years of experience in the industry, found Delta had provided a “cursory review” of the proposal and that it failed to adequately address the impacts the proposal would have on water, threatened species and land sinking.

Key findings

  • The EIS does not adequately assess the impacts of the proposal on local biodiversity, particularly the potential impacts on the ecology of Swindles Creek.
  • The potential impacts from mine wastewater being discharged into Swindles Creek, which runs into Lake Macquarie, is not examined.
  • The likely impacts of land sinking, due to underground mining, have not been adequately addressed in the EIS.
  • The groundwater assessment is cursory and not based on any rigorous analysis, instead relying on historical data trends – which is insufficient for a thorough assessment.
  • The EIS does not properly address the cumulative impacts of mining in an area that has experienced an “intense level of mining”.

The EIS is open for public comment until Friday 16 December 2023.

Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Jocelyn McGarity said:

“Mr. Johnson’s report makes one thing clear – Delta Coal’s proposal should be put under the microscope and receive proper government and community scrutiny,”

“If this proposal goes ahead, Delta Coal will dig up an extra 9.5 million tonnes of coal to be burned at Delta’s nearby Vales Point Power Station, which we know pumps toxic pollution into the air we breathe and causes serious health conditions including asthma and chronic lung problems.”

“The community has until Friday to have a say on their health, environment and future. If decision makers receive 50 objections to the project, it will be referred to the Independent Planning Commission, which means more rigorous assessment and community participation.”

Hunter Community Environment Centre Senior Researcher Paul Winn said:

“Delta’s assessment does not provide enough detail on the likely impacts of the project. There is no biodiversity assessment for Swindle’s Creek in the EIS, and no mention of the heavy metal pollution likely to be caused by ongoing mining,”

“The cumulative impacts on sensitive seagrass beds in Lake Macquarie from previous mine subsidence, as well as thermal impacts from the Vales Point power station have not been considered in the project assessment.”

Keep Lake Macquarie Clean member Bruce Macfarlane said:

“Lake Macquarie is the lifeblood of our community, and we must look after it.

In just the past few months alone we’ve seen fish kills which are still under investigation by the EPA as well as documented reductions in sea grass beds.

“Delta coal needs to do its homework and the proposal must be properly assessed by the government for its risks.”

Read Gordon Johnson’s report here.

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