Expert Report Finds Shenhua’s Mine Plan Lacks Basic Detail and ‘Understates Environmental Risk’

Posted on May 14th, by CCAG in Agriculture, CCAG, Coal, Environment, Media, Science, Shenhua, Soils, Water. No Comments

An independent environmental report has identified a litany of deficiencies, missing data, and failures to meet basic planning requirements in plans lodged by the Chinese mining giant Shenhua for a major coal mine on the Liverpool Plains.

The report, by the internationally respected consultants Earth Systems, has found there are such major gaps in baseline data on water quality and geochemistry that “…it is not possible to fully assess environmental impacts”.

It says not only does Shenhua’s 325-page EIS dedicate just a single page to its risk assessment which “appears to understate the likely impacts and risks” but has also uncovered the fact that Shenhua’s plans involve mining on the iconic floodplains – a clear breach of its exploration licence.

CCAG spokesman Tim Duddy said the Earth Systems review was damning of Shenhua’s approach to environmental protection and confirmed the community’s fears.

“From the moment the disgraced former Minister Ian Macdonald handed Shenhua its exploration licence on the Liverpool Plains in 2007, we’ve been fighting to ensure no mine proceeds without all of the risks being properly understood,” Mr Duddy said.

“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.

In summary, some of the major failings identified in the Shenhua EIS include:

  • A general lack of basic information about the size, scope, and schedule of the proposed mine
  • The risk assessment conducted by Shenhua for the proposed mine is not sufficiently detailed and “appears to understate the likely impacts and risks”
  • Major gaps in baseline data in areas including water quality, geochemistry, ecological, and meteorological values mean it is not possible to fully assess the mine’s potential impacts
  • The Shenhua plan involves mining on the floodplains of the Liverpool Plains, a breach of Shenhua’s exploration licence EL7223
  • An Environmental Management Plan and other monitoring programs which are Federal Government requirements have not been provided
  • Agricultural impacts from the proposed mine are likely to be understated due to Shenhua’s use of baseline estimates obtained using drought year productivity data
  • Recent changes to the EPBC Act, Murray Darling Basin Plan and Mining Regulation 2010 have not been considered

Mr Duddy said:  “One or two of these issues would be serious enough but the long list of omissions and failings that’s been uncovered is astonishing and will take years to properly address.”

He said the Earth Systems review had now been provided to NSW Planning to assist in the formal assessment of Shenhua’s proposal.

“Our community is looking forward to all of these issues being thoroughly examined not only by NSW Planning but also the Commonwealth’s Independent Expert Scientific Panel which will also be asked to assess Shenhua’s proposal,” he said.

“The NSW Government has publicly pledged it will not allow any mine development that risks the water systems and environment of the Liverpool Plains and our community intends to hold them to that promise,” he said.