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.