Report on coal lashes Iemma
Marian Wilkinson Environment Editor, SMH
May 29, 2008
THE Iemma Government needs to confront the state’s lucrative $8.5 billion coal industry over its greenhouse gas emissions and the massive land subsidence it causes, according to a leaked report from its own climate-change department.
The confidential report by officers in the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) states bluntly that greenhouse gas emissions, “are still not addressed adequately in the development assessment process and mine companies are not made responsible for their greenhouse gas emissions”.
It says coalmining contributes 9 per cent to NSW’s greenhouse gas emissions and argues “the real cost of coal in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions should be addressed when considering mining approvals”.
The reports says the climate-change department should be part of the approval process, which may pit its minister, Verity Firth, against the ministers who approve mining – the minister responsible for mining, Ian Macdonald, and the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor.
Much of the emissions comes from methane released in mining and burning coal for power domestically. The report finds the department now has “a lead role to play” in trying to reduce these emissions. It also says the subsidence problems in some regions have the potential to affect the water supply for Sydney and the Central Coast.
It urges Ms Firth’s department to take a more aggressive role in the environmental assessment of new mines. NSW has 10 billion tonnes of coal reserves and 50 operating mines, but with the booming coal market there are 30 new proposals for mines.
“DECC in particular needs to be consulted even before mining approval has been granted, through the exploration approval phase,” the report says.
It criticises the Department of Primary Industries over its handling of an increase in subsidence caused by underground mining techniques called longwall mining. The Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who has campaigned on the subsidence problems from NSW coalmines, said last night the report was damning.
“It is an indictment of the inability of Frank Sartor and Ian Macdonald, the ministers responsible for the approval and operation of coalmines in NSW, to protect the interests of the community and the environment,” Ms Rhiannon said. “DECC provides clear evidence of what the Government is letting coalmining companies get away within NSW, destroying rivers and the natural environments and boosting greenhouse gas emissions.”
The report details changes from subsidence to rivers and creeks in the southern coalfields around BHP-Billiton’s mines. “Subsidence impact can be extensive and devastating for local areas,” it says. “Underground mining has resulted in destabilised and cracked river beds along the Georges, Cataract and Bargo rivers leading to reduced water flows and environmental damage.”
It finds river-bed cracking and other subsidence effects have reduced water levels and water quality and minerals such as iron oxide have contaminated the water. While BHP-Billiton has taken remedial action, the report notes the area is an important water catchment, providing drinking water for Sydney.
This story was found at: https://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/05/28/1211654124089.html