Wednesday 30 October 2013

Make a submission on an amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 (Mining SEPP), Draft Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land mapping

The State Government is seeking feedback before 8th November regarding new proposals to protect farmland. The farmland they have designated as Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land is only a tiny proportion of the state and the standards that they apply for determining which land is important seem overly restrictive. 

The 'Gateway' assessment process seems inadequate as well, in terms of protecting our food and water resources.

Submissions need to be made by Friday 8 November 2013. If you would like to make a submission, go to this page on the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure website. 

Some brief points to make are:
  • Waterways and catchment areas are not adequately protected.
  • Land should be protected from all forms of mining, not just CSG.
  • The 'Gateway' assessment process seems inadequate in terms of protecting our food and water resources for the future. It seems it cannot refuse an application.
  • Ask for the deadline for submissions to be extended, as more land needs to be assessed and definitions of what land is important agricultural land should be revised.
  • In our area the Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land shown (on map 32) needs to be expanded, as other important land, such as the basalt soils with permanent water of Mt Vincent and Cherry Tree Hill, is not included. 
There are a great number of documents on the Department of Planning's page, but the ones that apply to our area are Map 32 (covering Running Stream, Kandos etc) and Map 31 (covering the Mudgee area).

Craig Shaw to speak at Capertee Valley Alliance AGM

If you missed hearing Craig talk about his experiences negotiating an access agreement to his property in the Bylong Valley, you have another chance on Sunday 3rd November, 2pm at Glen Alice Hall. It is a tale worth listening to. Here is the invite:

RSVP by Thursday XXXXXXX                              Note: the CVA will hold their AGM at 1.30
Phone - 6379 7767 or email                                              only financial members can vote

Thursday 24 October 2013

Notes on the talk given at the AGM by Bruce Christie of Central West CMA

Bruce Christie kindly attended our recent AGM and gave a talk about water monitoring, touching on a range of topics such as:

  • The government used to have quite an extensive network of gauging stations along rivers and creeks, with data monitors and samples (measuring temperature, EC – which is a reading of salinity, phosphorous and dissolved oxygen. However, owing to government cost-cutting measures, many of these sites are no longer monitored.
  • The Office of Water is now concerned with water quality and issues licences which are now tradeable. Allocation of licences is not always done on a scientific basis, especially years ago, with the result that in some areas there is over-allocation of water. This can be clearly seen in the Macquarie Marshes where now some areas, due to lack of water, are no longer marshes but are turning into terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Bruce explained the issue of harvestable rights – the amount of land you own constrains how much water you can capture (ie harvest) in dams. This water can be used for whatever you like.
  • Piezometers are used to measure the rise and fall of groundwater. Tracking this rise and fall against local rainfall events can give you some idea if the groundwater system being measured is a local system or is linked to a regional system.
  • The CMA does awareness-raising with schools in the region. Bruce visits schools 4-5 times a year and works with years 9 and 10. They will do things like visual monitoring, evaluating the surrounding environment to gain some idea of how this might affect the quality of the water, and then measure temperature, EC, pH and turbidity.
  • Bruce then explained how these parameters are measured, showing us the equipment to be used.
  • Bruce suggested it would be good for members of the association to take some snapshots of a number of springs. Do this by recording the day and recent weather events and then taking a photo, with GPS location, and measuring the simple water quality parameters of temperature, EC, pH and turbidity. Also measure the quantity or flow, if possible.
  • You can register your monitored site on the Water Watch website and enter the results on the website. The entered data is verified by the CMA so any obvious errors such as typos are picked up and any anomalies will be queried. This helps to give the data a bit of credibility.

Bruce left the Association with a water testing kit, which members can borrow and use to check their springs, waterways and dams. If you’d like to borrow the kit, please email the association at:

Administrators appointed to companies of controversial Coalpac Consolidation Project in Cullen Bullen

Company Administrators Matthew Wayne Caddy and Shaun Robert Fraser were appointed on the 18 October 2013 for the following companies associated with controversial Coalpac Consolidation Project:

Company: CET Resources Pty Ltd
Company: Coalpac Pty Ltd
Company: Portland Road Pastoral Co Pty Ltd in its own capacity and as trustee for Portland Road Unit Trust
Company: Lithgow Coal Company Pty Limited

Notice is given that a first meeting of the creditors of the Company, or a first meeting for each of the Companies, (for multiple companies), will be held:

Location:     Cliftons, Level 13, 60 Margaret Street, Sydney
Meeting Date:     30 October 2013
Meeting Time:     11am

It certainly wasn't looking good for the Coalpac Pty Ltd sponsored COALFACE Western Region Mining Magazine, featuring theLithgow & District Community Forum's head spokesperson Dick Austen on the front cover and an inside editorial by Lithgow City Council Mayor, Maree Statham, when earlier this week a large bundle of the FREE magazines were spotted left dumped outside a local Lithgow Service Station!

Monday 21 October 2013

President's Report

Hi there and welcome to our 2013 AGM.

It’s been a very busy year for our Association, with exploratory drilling taking place on the mountain and several land owners seeking information about access agreements.

Late in 2012, NSW Farmers, in conjunction with the NSW Minerals Council and NSW Government, put out a template Land Access Arrangement for Minerals Exploration under the Mining Act 1992, to assist members who were negotiating access for minerals exploration. And we directed our members to this as a quality starting point for negotiations.
But a coal company misrepresented one of these access agreements to landowners, saying that it reflected the conditions and provisions in the template, when it did not. Some access agreements, which looked the same, with the NSW Farmers logo, were being distributed to some landholders. So NSW Farmers withdrew the template from their website and no longer endorsed its use. This caused a lot of concern and even more distrust of coal companies.
Then, at the end of July the Independent Commission Against Corruption handed down a damning report on corruption in the allocation of coal mining leases in NSW.
ICAC found that the directors of coal company Cascade Coal, and former ALP parliamentarians Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald, engaged in corrupt behaviour when coal licences were granted for three projects at Bylong and in the Hunter Valley. Inglenook was one of eleven coal exploration licences approved at the same time, so we were very interested in the outcome of this case.
The ICAC’s report exposed the dark underbelly of the whole management of coal mining in NSW -  communities are locked out, back room deals are done, and mining companies get their way.

But despite these findings, Barry O'Farrell has moved to weaken controls on coal mining even further. He plans to make it almost impossible for any authority to reject a major coal mine application – regardless of impacts on water, health or communities.
He has put forward changes to the state mining policy to make the development of significant mineral resources the primary consideration of decision-makers, trumping all other issues.

The Association put in a submission opposing these changes and we also met with our local MP Paul Toole as part of The Better Planning Lobby day at Parliament House on 20 August. As we pointed out to him, our primary concern is the reversal of the intention of the Aquifer Interference Policy in the State Environmental Planning Policy.

We believe that it is unacceptable for state significant development (which includes coal mining) to be exempt from the minimal impact standards in the policy. We want the Aquifer Interference Policy to be made binding for all development, including mining and coal seam gas exploration and production.

We asked Mr Toole to make representations to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure on behalf of our Association to ensure that this issues is addressed
in the new Law.

But pollies have a way of passing the buck as you can see from the many letters that we’ve received over the year in response to our calls for support.

We’ve invited several guests to come and speak to our members over the year, and later, we’ll be hearing from Bruce Christie from the Central West Catchment Authority.

A few months ago, Craig Shaw, the Secretary of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance spoke with us about his experience of Access and Arbitration

Craig and his partner own a property in Upper Bylong which is under an exploration licence held by Kepco Bylong. Cockatoo are the project managers for the drilling program. Together the two companies have been quite heavy handed in their approach to gain access to Craig's property.  And Craig admitted to us that during the process he had, on several occasions, felt suicidal.

He said that if he had his time again he would skip the very stressful process of arbitration altogether and save his resources for the Land and Environment Court, which he will be going to next. Basically, the whole process needs radical reform and Craig will be at the forefront of lobbying for that change. Incidentally, he will also be speaking at the Capertee Valley Alliance’s AGM so, if you’re interested, you could hear him speak there.

Centennial Coal has applied for an extension to their Mt Airly Mine operations in the Capertee Valley, which is a concern because the longwall proposals on Newnes plateau will cause subsidence under the endangered ecological community of swamps. They have refused to narrow the panels, some of which are 340 metres wide. Landowners are worried that this will drop swamps 2 metres, crack the underlying strata and drain them.

Many landowners around NSW who want to protect their land from coal mining feel they are being let down by the system.

You might’ve heard that the NSW Government has joined global mining giant Rio Tinto in a Supreme Court action to force an unwanted open cut coal mine onto the people of Bulga, in the Hunter Valley.

 The mine proposal was previously rejected by a NSW court, due to the unacceptable impacts it would have on public health, threatened bushland, and the ongoing viability of the village of Bulga. But Rio Tinto and the NSW Government have refused to accept the umpire's decision, and are now dragging the Bulga residents' group into the Supreme Court to get their way.

This is a new low point in a wider campaign of bullying and intimidation by mining companies against communities. Mining companies routinely lie to landholders, intimidate communities, and threaten legal action against anyone who would hinder or speak out against them. The coal bullies have shown they will do anything to get their way, including taking local residents groups to the Supreme Court.

 The O'Farrell Government should be protecting communities. Instead, they are behaving like the hired goons of the mining industry.

We asked the new mine manager from Charbon – Neil Larcomb, and the new project manager for Inglenook, to come and address us but they both declined our invitation, saying that the Community Consultation Committees were the forums to communicate with community members. We have representation on both of those CCC’s and regularly post minutes from the meetings on our blog but so often the answers to our questions ring hollow.

So far 15 of the planned 28 holes in Stage 1 have been drilled here on Mt Vincent, and the gossip is that most of those have been poor quality coal, which is good news. As is the downturn in coal prices, which has led to a slowdown in exploration activities, with Centennial now having only one drill rig operating over all their licences in the western coalfields. And there’s also the increasing awareness about the link between burning coal and climate change. As we know, coal fired power plants are a major contributor to rising CO2 levels which cause global warming. The current bushfires are a real sign that we need to shift our economies away from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. So keep your fingers crossed that coal prices stay low and renewable energies get stronger!

Over the year, we have been working hard to get our message out in various ways. We had a presence along with other local community groups at the Mudgee Small Farm field Days and contributed  $200 to the stand.  Special thanks to everyone who helped man that stall and who donated items for the raffle.

Our online presence is also a vital means of communication and we are pleased to say we have a new website after a very damaging experience with our old one. One of our members who helped set up our original website, hijacked it earlier this year claiming that it was his and not the Associations’, despite the fact that 90% of the content was contributed by the committee. This was a real blow and we’ve been trying to negotiate access to it and our to other blog for our kids sub-branch -the Puggles Club – since March but unfortunately the member in question is incredibly stubborn and is refusing to budge. 

This has been a very upsetting experience for me personally because it’s hard enough working in a volunteer group with very few resources against a multi-national mining company, without having this sort of destructive internal power struggle going on. Anyway, thanks to our Treasurer, David Drinkwater, the new website is up and running and in a few short months has attracted over 6,000 page views.

We are also on Facebook. Our profile name is ‘Running Stream’ and we already have over 165 ‘friends’. And we’re on Twitter too - @RSWUA.

So onwards and upwards we go. Thanks to you all for your support and if there are any issues that you’d like the Association to address, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are here for you.

Thank you.

 Nell Schofield

Tuesday 15 October 2013

The Gateway Panel explained

On Thursday 3 October, the NSW Government announced the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel, comprising independent scientific experts with expertise in the fields of agricultural science, hydrogeology and mining and petroleum development.
The Panel is an independent body constituted under the Mining SEPP. The six members of the Panel are:
 Terry Short (Chairperson) - Agricultural scientist.
 Professor Garry Willgoose – Groundwater expert.
 George Gates, PSM – Groundwater expert.
 Dr Ian Lavering – Geologist.
 Brett Whelan – Agricultural scientist.
 Dr Russell Frith – Mining engineer.

The Gateway Process and Panel are part of several elements of the NSW Government's Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.
The role of the Gateway assessment process is to identify potential impacts on valuable agricultural land and water resources from mining and coal seam gas (CSG) proposals before a development application (DA) can be lodged. Once identified, these impacts must be addressed in the DA.
The Gateway process will apply immediately to strategic agricultural land in the Upper Hunter and New England North West Regions. The NSW Government is currently inviting feedback on biophysical strategic agricultural land (BSAL) mapping for the remainder of the state (refer to item 18 in this Local Government Weekly). Once this mapping is finalised the Gateway process will also apply to this land.
In the meantime, a landholder, anywhere in the state, who has entered into an access agreement with a mining or CSG company, can have their site verified as BSAL through a site verification process (a protocol for site verification has been developed.)

Department of Planning and Infrastructure Information 1300 305 695

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Friday 11 October 2013

Call your local MP to say START AGAIN!

Right now, the NSW Government is making final changes to its disastrous new planning legislation. But Minister Hazzard's Planning Bills are so off the mark that NO amendment to these Bills will be good enough.
The Better Planning Network and our 427 affiliated organisations (including RSWUA) want a fair and responsible planning system for NSW.  A system that encourages growth in line with Ecologically Sustainable Development principles; has at its heart community wellbeing; protects our environment and heritage;  minimises risks of corruption and respects the rights of communities to shape local planning and development decisions.
Making amendments to fundamentally flawed legislation is not good enough and the Minister's recent changes certainly won't fix the Bills. NOW is the time to call your local MP and say NO to the Government's Planning Bills!

Make a call to your local MP here
The NationalsBathurst(02) 6331 1555

Pillaging the Pilliga

Alarm bells are sounding over further coal seam gas drilling in northern NSW’s vast Pilliga State Forest: dead animals and a toxic chain of ponds, along with the release this week of a damning ecological report.

“I call this one ‘roo stew’,” says Tony Pickard, a semi-retired grazier who lives near the Pilliga, a vast inland forest in northwestern New South Wales. Pickard is referring to a photograph taken in August 2009 of a dead animal immersed in filthy, brackish fluid. Tufts of grey fur protrude from the liquid, but the animal is so decayed — almost dissolved — that it’s difficult to identify whether it is indeed a kangaroo, or some other type of carcass.
For the past four years, Pickard has scouted the forest, a ladder tucked under one arm, and a camera slung over the other. He’s captured images of a turtle, a goanna, and a dozen frogs, all floating dead in the cloudy ponds or wells that litter this coal seam gas (CSG) drilling site.
All this in a "Noah's Ark" for declining bird and mammal specials, as an ecological study released this week called the Pilliga forest.
In recent months, the state government has taken concrete steps to help CSG drilling expand. On September 11, NSW lifted its moratorium on fracking, a controversial method of extracting coal seam gas. The state has granted several new exploration licences and it has renewed others — including the licence that was granted over the Pilliga. And in early October, the NSW Resources and Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, told a coal seam gas industry conference that he wanted to ramp up CSG production in NSW.

Read the full story here

One step closer to saving the beautiful Gardens of Stone from a destructive coal mine!

Recently, the NSW Department of Planning strongly recommended that the Coalpac open-cut coal mine proposed near Lithgow should be rejected because of its impacts on the natural and scenic values of the Gardens of Stone.
Ben Bullen State Forest is publicly owned land within the Gardens of Stone area so named for its rock formations. The area contains a complex of narrow canyons, upland swamps, rock arches and pagodas that provide habitat for many endangered plants and animals.
The recommendation by the Department of Planning to reject this damaging project is a victory for common sense, the community and the environment.
The O’Farrell government now has an historic opportunity to protect this unique part of the state’s environmental heritage once and for all by declaring Ben Bullen State Forest a state conservation area.
Call on Planning Minister Brad Hazzard and Environment Minister Robyn Parker to safeguard the Gardens of Stone by taking the necessary steps to reserve the area under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Help protect the Gardens of Stone here

Thursday 10 October 2013

Report on the Airly Mine community information session at Glen Alice, 9 September 2013

by Guy Sim, Vice-President, RSWUA

On Monday 9th September 2013 I attended the Capertee Valley special community information session on the Airly Mine Extension. It was held in the Glen Alice Community Hall.

It was truly wonderful to drive to Glen Alice from Cherry Tree Hill early in the morning. I ensured that I had sufficient time to travel to the Coorongooba camping area downstream from Glen Davis before the meeting started. Travelling through these natural wonders certainly brings home the reality of our struggle against the massive expansion of coal mining on our doorstep.

The meeting was well attended by about 40 to 50 residents, guests and Airly Mine staff.
Donna Upton was brilliant in bringing the meeting together and providing a wealth of information on all local mining operations in our wider community.

Below is the extract from Centennial Coal Projects web page:

Centennial is seeking approval to renew Airly Mine’s existing planning consent by 2014. Under the renewal process, Centennial is proposing to extend mining operations into the eastern section of the mine’s current mining lease, proposes to continue the underground mining operations, increase the mine’s coal extraction capacity and upgrade existing site infrastructure.

The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DoP&I), in consultation with other government agencies, will use the information provided in the briefing paper to determine what Centennial must include and address in the Environmental Impact Statement.

The Environmental Impact Statement is proposed to be completed and submitted to the DoP&I in mid-2013. Centennial’s community consultation process will provide information on the project and comment is encouraged when the DoP&I publicly exhibits the Environmental Impact Statement.

While currently on ‘Care and Maintenance’ the Airly project will allow, when the mine reopens, the mine to continue operating, therefore creating local jobs, while the local and regional community will also benefit from the positive economic contribution.

The extension will increase coal from the past 1.8 million tonnes per annum to 3 million tonnes.

Several senior staff members from the Airly project attended the meeting. These were Bob Miller, David King (Project Manager) and Greg Brown (Environmental Officer).

As Donna was delivering her presentation, staff from the mine clarified several issues. One that I found particularly appalling is that they already have approval for full extraction in certain areas of the existing lease. Full extraction is the removal of the entire coal seam in a particular area, with subsidence levels commensurate with the thickness of the seam. It is truly frightening that this can be approved in a State Conservation Area of such significance as Mugii Murum-Ban SCA.

Airly staff did add that they had no intention of operating these full extraction methods, which while noble, can be subject to change pending global markets, scarcity of coal and the principles and ethics of future owners.

A DVD presentation by Lock the Gate Alliance was shown, which was very thought provoking.

The guest speaker was Ian Holden, a solicitor from the Wagga Wagga region. He gave a presentation on the vital importance of having very sound and specific access agreements in the exploratory phase of mining operations. He spoke on the latest planning legislation and how it will favour the mining companies and put less and less emphasis on other uses of the land. He spoke of the importance of understanding the Aquifer Interference Policy and how it is probably the most important item to ‘take on’ coal mines. (See information about the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy on the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Office of Water website.) 

Ian intended to speak further on strategies to forestall exploration of private lands but chose not to due to the presence of the staff from Centennial Coal.

During the lunch break I spoke with David King, the Airly Project Manager, who stated he was glad that he had attended the meeting as it had given him an insight into what concerned the locals and would address these at the public Technical Sessions planned for October 2013. Unfortunately this is just one of the tactics used by mining companies to overcome local resistance to their operations. 

Justin McKee of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society gave a brilliant presentation of these tactics to the people at Cullen Bullen a couple of years ago. It was disturbing hearing it straight from the Project Mananger’s mouth.

The public are invited to attend the Technical Sessions planned for Sunday 13 October (10 am, Airly Mine) and further information can be found on the Capertee Valley Alliance blog. (RSWUA members are urged to attend and to make their voices heard at the meeting.) More information from Centennial about the Airly Mine can be found in Centennial's latest Airly Mine Newsletter.