Friday 18 April 2014

Save Our Foodbowl From Mining

BHP is planning on digging the largest underground coal mine in the world under some of Australia's very best farmlands, on the Liverpool Plains in north-western NSW. The Liverpool Plains is important and unique because it combines exceptionally fertile volcanic soils with high output aquifers and reliable summer and winter rainfall. (Members may remember Tim Duddy from the Liverpool Plains coming to talk at one of the meetings soon after the 'Inglenook' project began.)
Each year, the Liverpool Plains produces enough grain for 365 million loaves of bread, 62.5 million packets of pasta, and 58 million boxes of cornflakes. It is feeding the nation.
But all that is at risk from this staggeringly large underground coal mine. A mine that will cut through aquifers and risk draining the precious groundwater. BHP has decided that the mine will not have a significant impact on water resources and has told the Federal Government that it doesn't trigger the water clauses in the Federal environment laws.
We have a very short window of opportunity to tell them otherwise. We have until 23 April to make initial comments on it the proposal. Please take a minute to send an email to protect our national foodbowl, the Liverpool Plains, and the rich groundwater supplies that support it.
Go to the Lock the Gate website for more information on this mine.

Friday 11 April 2014

Conflicts of interest in mining community consultation committees and land access disputes

The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that 'the state government’s oversight of committees set up to give communities a say on mining projects has been called into question over criticisms their membership is open to conflicts of interest'.

Specifically, the independence of 'Inglenook' community consultative committee (CCC) chair, Margaret McDonald-Hill, has been called into question. Ms McDonald-Hill oversees 11 CCCs. She is chairwoman of a committee for an exploration project, a reference group for the proposed Wallarah 2 mine, and AGL’s Hunter and Camden coal seam gas committees, for which she is paid by AGL via the Department of Trade and Investment. She is also on the Mine Subsidence Board, on the government’s panel of arbitrators, and has been approached to join federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane’s NSW CSG taskforce aimed at kick-starting industry activity.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said Ms McDonald-Hill’s roles 'overlap and seem to create significant conflicts of interest' . He said in a press release: 'Undeclared payments directly from the mining company undermine the independence of the chair and the community’s confidence in the CCC.  The current system means that the community often perceives the "independent chair" as simply a stooge of the mining company.Bylong Valley Protection Alliance spokesman Craig Shaw said there was little evidence the Department of Trade and Investment screened for potential conflicts of interests, with Ms McDonald-Hill’s appointment an example.

We hope that the state government responds by undertaking a comprehensive overhaul of the system, showing the people of NSW that they take the roles of CCC chair and independent arbitrator seriously so that the community can begin to have some trust in the process. It seems all too clear that at present the government could not care less and the mining companies are happy to exploit the flawed system as far as they can.

Centennial Coal involved in court action over their unfair redundancy payments to older mine workers

Legal proceedings have been lodged in the Federal court on behalf of workers made redundant in October 2013 from Centennial Coal's Lake Macquarie mines.

Union spokeswoman Catherine Bolger said it is an obscure and discriminatory clause that no other employer in the coal mining industry relies upon. It is an outdated clause in the award when the compulsory age of retirement was 60.

Ms Bolger said the court action has been launched to ensure older mineworkers get what they deserve. She said: 
They're reducing people's payout by about two-thirds, which we say is totally heartless and very unfair. Particularly given Centennial have just announced a profit in Australia of $213 million gross profit.
In a statement, Centennial said it will be up to the court to decide on the merits of the action.
Read the ABC News report on this here.

Thursday 10 April 2014

New CSG exploration licence near Running Stream

As if Centennial's 'Inglenook' coal exploration licence wasn't enough, there is now a new petroleum exploration licence application over the Blue Mountains and Lithgow and extending as far west as Running Stream. PEL Application 158 has been lodged by CEEMAC Pty Ltd, headed by a Chris McPherson. You can see a map of the area covered by PEL 158 here.

Unfortunately, the date for making submissions to the state government on this project was 13 March, but you can still sign an on-line petition protesting the PEL application to be sent to Premier Barry O'Farrell, NSW Energy and Resources Minister Anthony Roberts and NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker by the local organisation Stop GSC Blue Mountains. They're aiming for 12 000 signatures and to-date are only 50 or so signatures short of their target. You can find the petition here.

If you want to read up a bit on CSG and what CSG mining in our area might mean, Stop CSG Blue Mountains has links to two interesting articles:
NSW Farmers is holding a public workshop on CSG for landholders on Tuesday 6th May, where you can find more information about CSG and its impact on farming communities.

Blue Mountains Council made a strongly worded submission on PEL 158 and Lithgow City Council's submission can be read here. Stop CSG Blue Mountains also made a very detailed and informative submission.

Mid-Western Regional Council general manager, Warwick Bennett, says council was notified two days before the deadline to respond. He said: 'The consultation with these exploration licences is absolutely minimal and with the amount of controversy there is in New South Wales and Australia as a whole we believe there needs to be more consultation for these Coal Seam Gas licences'. Read more about the MWRC response here.
Ceemac has applied for three separate petroleum exploration licences covering an area of 127,000 square kilometres including Dubbo, Narromine, Coolah, Bilpin, Cullen Bullen, Wallerawang and Portland. Dubbo's Daily Liberal newspaper has a brief report on the applications, including a map of the two exploration areas near Dubbo. The newspaper also reports that The Greens' Jeremy Buckingham has called on the state government to freeze the application process for the three licences.

For the moment, the licence has been frozen as part of a six-month suspension on new coal seam gas exploration licences by the state government but it remains to be seen what happens after that time.

The Wellington Times reports that Mr Buckingham said: 'The Greens are astonished that the government would continue to grant new coal seam gas licences given the huge amount of community concern over the industry's risk to land and water... Many other regions across NSW have been in open rebellion against the intrusion of the coal seam gas industry and to protect the land, water and communities... If these licences are granted then it is clear the National Party is putting the gas industry's interests ahead of farmers and regional communities.'

A little internet research on CEEMAC and Mr McPherson has yielded very little information, leading one to wonder whether this company might be one of the $2 shelf companies NSW Minister for Resources Anthony Roberts recently railed against. Mr Roberts said 'There is no space under myself or this government, for cowboy operators any more.' Let's hope he means what he says!

Wednesday 2 April 2014

RSWUA general meeting Sunday 4 May 2014

All RSWUA members are invited to a general meeting of the Running Stream Water Users Association on Sunday 4th May 2014, 3 pm at Running Stream Hall. 

We will be hosting a guest speaker at the meeting: our previous president, Nell Schofield, who is now working for the 'Our Land. Our Water. Our Future.' campaign. 

Nell will be speaking about the campaign, which brings together more than 75 community and environment groups, representing tens of thousands of people from across the state. 

'Our Land. Our Water. Our Future.' is working with communities across the state to protect our land and water from the destructive impacts of coal and gas mining. With 80% of the state covered by mining licences and applications, we know the system is broken and it's time for change.

'Our Land. Our Water. Our Future.' polling shows 73 per cent of people in NSW want coal and gas mining banned in our water catchments and near rivers, and about 66 per cent want it off all productive agricultural land. The polling also shows that the majority of people in NSW think corruption exists within the coal industry and Premier Barry O’Farrell is not doing enough to respond. 

The campaign goal is for coal and gas no-go zones to protect farmland and rural industries, water resources, our special wild places, and residential communities. 

With a new petroleum/CSG exploration licence going ahead in the area, and the continuing threat from Centennial Coal's proposed coal mine at Ilford/Running Stream, the RSWUA needs your support more than ever. Please come along for the talk, and stay for afternoon tea afterwards. 

Minutes of latest 'Inglenook' CCC meeting, 25 March 2014

Minutes of Inglenook Exploration Project
Community Consultative Committee Meeting

Date and time: Tuesday 25/03/2014, 9:30am
Location: Inglenook Project Office, "Spring Park", Running Stream

Present Margaret MacDonald-Hill (MMH) Chair
Julie Moloney (JM) Office of Resources & Energy, Mineral Resources
Esme Martens (EM) Inglenook Community Representative
Neva Lilley (NL) Inglenook Community Representative
Mitchell Clapham (MC) Inglenook Community Representative
Jolieske Lips (JL) Inglenook Community Representative
Greg Banning (GB) Centennial Coal
Alex Brown (AB) Centennial Coal
Thomas Dubos (TD) Centennial Coal

Apologies Cr Ray Thompson Lithgow City Council
Alanna Ryan (AR) Centennial Coal

Welcome and Introduction
The Chair opened the formal meeting at 9:40am welcomed all attendees and thanked them for their

Declarations of Interest

  • MMH noted her position as Independent Chair appointed by the Minister for Energy & Resources. She is also a Member of the Mine Subsidence Board & Minister’s Arbitration Panel. 
  • EM as owner of mineral rights in relation to the Inglenook EL, member of Charbon CCC. 
  • NL’s family as owners of mineral rights in relation to the Inglenook EL. 
  • JL as owner of mineral rights in relation to the Inglenook EL 

Confirmation of previous minutes: Minutes were confirmed as a true record moved by NL and seconded by MC.
Business arising: MMH followed up with Lithgow City Council and confirmed there is no change in Council's representation.

  • TD presented a project update since the last CCC meeting. Exploration boreholes are planned in the Melrose, Cameron Road and Ilford exploration licences however the budget for 2014 exploration has not yet been approved by Centennial. EM asked if holes will be drilled out at Razorback. TD explained that hole locations are not definite however some holes have planned locations along Razorback. 
  • GB discussed the presentation that Centennial gave to the Department of Resources and Energy in March. 
  • JL asked for an explanation of the vibrating Wire Piezometer installation. TD explained that the water monitoring installation sites typically consist of two boreholes. One stand pipe piezometer borehole which monitors water level and allows for groundwater samples to be taken. The other installation is a vibrating wire installation which consists of several vibrating wire piezometers at various depths throughout the strata which are grouted in place to measure water pressure. 
  • JL asked if drilling is decided for 2014. GB noted that a meeting with the Government was held in early March and that Malcolm Ives was currently preparing an internal drill plan for review by senior management. 
  • NL commented on the quality of the coal on the top of Mount Vincent. TD responded that coal was as expected from the current Inglenook model in both thickness and quality. 
  • JL noted that an installation was planned for Carwell Creek. TD responded that Centennial are still pursuing the installation and Centennial will get back to JL once the installation planning has been finalised. 

Out: MMH sent email 15 Nov to Lithgow City Council to confirm the representative was still Cr Ray Thompson
In: Email response received from Lithgow City Council on 9 Dec confirming that the representative was still Cr Ray Thompson.

General Business

  • NL asked about Airly Coal production, if any coal has been produced and if Charbon is still producing. GB confirmed that coal has been produced. NL asked about the number of staff that transferred. JL commented that it would be nice to know how many Charbon employees were let go. GB noted that Centennial will provide the numbers of employees that have transferred to Airly.  
  • JL commented that a neighbour contacted her in regards to an environmental monitoring agreement she received. JL expected a scope of works should be included with the agreement. JL acknowledged that 
  • Centennial has provided a letter in relation to the monitoring however it is not of sufficient detail. JL requested Centennial supply a scope of works for the environmental monitoring. AR will supply a scope of works and make contact with JL before the next CCC. 
  • JL asked if Centennial will be conducting dust and noise monitoring. AB responded that noise and dust monitoring is not taking place at this stage. The Inglenook meteorological station data which is being collected and field observations will be used to provide dust modelling. 
  • JL asked about an issue with one of the boreholes which was to be left open for production and casing falling down the borehole. TD responded that the hole in question was drilled in 2012 and had an issue with friable Narrabeen sands constantly falling into the borehole once the drill rods were removed to case off. The hole was cleaned out and fully sealed to surface. 

Meeting closed Meeting closed at 10.15am.
Next meeting scheduled for Tuesday 22 July 2014 at Spring Park at 9.30am.

Action Items
AR to contact JL and provide detailed Flora Survey information.
Feedback to be provided to CC members re: number of employees transferred to Airly from Charbon