A new report commissioned by Lock the Gate Alliance has revealed the scale of water consumption by coal mines in the Hunter region and the extensive damage being done to both surface and groundwater in the region by expanded open cut coal mining.
Vast quantities of water are now owned by coal mines. Agricultural industries have not only been pushed out of rich farmland but are grappling with worsening salinity caused by mining and are struggling to compete for the water they rely on for their livelihoods.
The area of the Hunter cut open by coal mines has increased 18-fold since 1981, from 1742 hectares to 31 500 hectares.
In total, the coal mines own entitlements to 143 billion litres of water, and last year they consumed almost 88.5 billion litres from various Hunter Valley sources. Coal companies dominate ownership of 'high security' water, including 55% of all 'high security' shares of the Hunter River, which means they will obtain water preferentially during times of drought.
Hunter mine open cut pits and final voids (following closure of an open cut mine, mining companies frequently leave a 'void' as the final landform, because they object to paying the cost of refilling them) are also reducing base flow of the Hunter River.
Read more on Lock the Gate's website.