Coal mine pollution risks revealed at Conservation Society meeting

Be aware: environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region. Picture by Julie Shepherd
Be aware: environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region. Picture by Julie Shepherd

AT their recent meeting members of Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society were presented with startling evidence of environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney region.

Their guest speaker, Ian Wright from the Western Sydney University, had worked as a scientific officer with Sydney Water investigating the impact of human activities on creeks and rivers in the Sydney basin before taking up a research fellowship at WSU.

Be aware: environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region.Waratah Rivulet flows into Woronora Dam and has longwall coal mines underneath it. Picture by Julie Shepherd

Be aware: environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region.Waratah Rivulet flows into Woronora Dam and has longwall coal mines underneath it. Picture by Julie Shepherd

Conducting research on a limited budget and often faced with a hostile reception from mining interests in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, Dr Wright and his students compared water samples taken upstream of mining activity with those downstream.

Picture by Julie Shepherd

Picture by Julie Shepherd

They found significant deterioration in water quality attributable to waste water discharge from mining operations.

Dr Wright said toxic levels of salt, bicarbonate, zinc, nickel and other minerals had affected aquatic life and degraded the waters flowing through prized wilderness areas and World Heritage sites.

He said longwall mining, in particular, was responsible for subsidence in the bedrock of some creeks and streams feeding into Sydney's water catchments.

He showed photographic evidence of streams disappearing into cracks, only to re-emerge further downstream, polluted by mining waste.

Dr Wright was critical of the Environment Protection Authority, responsible for regulating the discharge of wastewater from mines, saying that pollution licence conditions needed to be tightened.

Dr Wright said the society could lobby politicians to introduce more stringent rules on mining activities.

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