PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on Friday said that any new coal mining operation in the Hunter region of New South Wales would be subject to a review of their impact on groundwater resources, before they would be approved.
This comes after the government released new research under the Bioregional Assessments programme that assessed the potential for changes in groundwater and surface water owing to coal mining and coal seam gas extraction.
The research on the Hunter region assessed how 22 potential new coal mines, or expansions of existing mines, could affect groundwater and surface water resources in the region.
The 22 two potential new projects included four new opencut mines, two new underground mines and 16 expansions of existing operations. The 22 new projects were in addition to the 42 existing coal mines already operational in the area.
The Bioregional Assessment found that an area of some 2 441 km2 could experience groundwater draw-down owing to the potential new mines or mine expansions, with about three-quarters of this area overlapping drawdown from existing coal mines.
The assessment flagged that large changes in flow regime could be possible in Wyong River, Loders Creed, Saddlers Creek, Wollar Creek and a number of ephemeral creeks, but noted that more detailed local information would be needed to determine the level of risk.
Around 1 228 km of streams and 102 km2 of groundwater-dependent ecosystems would potentially be affected by the changes in groundwater or surface water.
“Wherever possible, we want to encourage investment in our resources – providing much needed jobs for our regional communities. But not at the risk to the environment and the communities that rely on our water,” Frydenberg said on Friday.
“That’s why we’ve invested in this research. We need strong scientific evidence to be able to make the best decisions in relation to mining activities and mitigate any impacts they may have.”
The federal government has invested some A$90-million on the research to understand the risks associated with coal mining and coal seam gas extraction.