Chinese mine in NSW fails to meet standards
May 13, 2013 – 12:07AM
Sydney Morning Herald
A controversial mining proposal slated for prime agricultural land on the Liverpool Plains in northern NSW fails to meet basic environmental standards, an independent assessment of the project has found. A subsidiary of Chinese mining giant Shenhua, Shenhua Watermark Coal, is seeking environmental approval for its proposed Liverpool Plains coalmine and has filed an environmental impact statement as part of the process.
If they get this wrong they could poison two thirds of the Murray-Darling system. But farmers and agricultural groups paid for an independent review of Shenhua’s EIS and say the report exposes significant problems with the proposed mine. The report, by consulting group Earth Systems, found the mine would likely breach a prohibition on open-cut mining on the Liverpool Plains.
It also found that the mine’s risk assessment lacked detail, and there were “major gaps” in the baseline data for water quality and geochemistry, making it impossible to properly assess the environmental impacts of the mine. Tim Duddy, head of the Caroona Coal Action Group, said the mine could not go ahead under the circumstances. “There’s simply not enough data to assess whether it’s going to harm the agricultural resources or not,” Mr Duddy said. “You can’t possibly approve a mine with this lack of data. “This expert report makes it absolutely clear that either Shenhua does not understand what is involved in genuine environmental protection in a precious area like this or doesn’t take that obligation seriously.” He said Shenhua should never have been granted an exploration licence for the area. “If they get this wrong they could poison two thirds of the Murray-Darling system.” The company paid $300 million for its exploration licence, approved in 2008 by disgraced former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald, with an additional $200 million to be paid to the government if it won approval for a mine. Shenhua says the mine will pump $900 million into the local economy and boost jobs, but an economic assessment by Economists at Large said the case for the mine had been overstated. Mr Duddy said he would pass the two reports to state and federal governments to consider alongside Shenhua’s EIS.