Opinion: The Wallarah 2 Central Coast Coal Mine

The recently approved Wallarah 2 longwall coal mine located about 4.9km northwest of Wyong on the Central Coast of NSW is in my opinion one of the greatest political failures the entire Central Coast of NSW has ever witnessed.

This is an 82.5% Korean owned Coal Mine that has associations with the Chinese multi-national giant Yancoal, and a primarily export agenda to provide overseas coal at the expense of a significant risk to the air, water and land resources for the Central Coast of NSW. All condoned by your current NSW State Government.

Here are some facts from their own documentation:

“The project will involve the extraction of up to 5 Million tonnes per annum of export quality thermal coal via underground longwall mining methods. The Project requires the construction of an underground longwall mine, coal handling and storage facilities, rail loop and loading infrastructure, a drift entry, ventilation shafts, gas and water management facilities and administration buildings.”

Coal mining will be undertaken at depths between 350m and 690m below the surface within the underground extraction area. Mining and related activities will occur 24 hours a day for 7 days a week for 28 years.”  (Inclusive of a 3 year construction period and notwithstanding a slight recent concession with operation times when under construction)

  1. Air Pollution

This Wyong Coal Mine will occupy over half of the travelling distance between Wyong and Yarramalong. It is within 4.9km of Wyong CBD and the associated mine rail lines and supportive infrastructure will create air pollution issues that, using  their own words:

The increase in risk of daily mortality on the worst day in the life of the project is estimated to be 1 in 100,000″

So in my words, “on the worst day of the operation of a mine that operates 365 days a year for 24 hours a day for 28 years, extracting 150 million tonnes of the 700 million tonnes of available coal. That only one Central Coast resident could die from air pollution per day ?” I am speechless.

Consider the concurrent planned property developments along the train lines in the regions where all those Central Coast residents will be living and breathing the long term ramifications of that air pollution. I would also draw your attention to the mine authorisation boundaries that over doubles the area reported as their current project boundaries.

2. Ground and Surface Water Impacts.

This project will significantly impact the fresh water supply for 100,000 to 300,000 Central Coast residents depending on what documentation you reference. The water you drink and depend on for your survival will be at significant risk now this project has been approved. One only has to look at the mine, it’s projected size at this time, and its position in relation to the water catchment to see this clearly.

3. Mardi-Mangrove Pipeline and Subsidence

The $80 million Mardi-Mangrove pipeline designed to transfer water from this system to the Mangrove Dam on the escarpment during flood rains, was built to provide the Central Coast Community with water at times of great shortage. The Wallarah 2 Coal Project proposal risks the long-term integrity of this pipeline and again further risks the water supply for thousands of Central Coast residents. Your back up water is at risk.

4. Failure to Address Previous Concerns.

The Wallarah 2 Coal Project application has already been refused previously, based on the proponent’s failure to adequately address issues of water quality, ecological, subsidence and heritage impacts. i.e It was refused in 2011 based on this information and nothing significant has changed other than the addition of the risk to the new Mardi-Mangrove Pipeline.

5. Threatened Species

The current EIS lists thirty seven recorded threatened and migratory fauna species and six vulnerable or endangered flora species within the project site. Many of these species are protected under state and federal legislation as well as international agreements. The key threats to these species include land clearing, change in habitat due to subsidence and alteration of water flow, wetlands and floodplains.

6. Climate Change 

Five million tonnes of export grade thermal coal per annum represents a substantial contribution to NSW total carbon emissions and is in conflict with state and federal government programs to reduce our contribution to global climate change.

The argument for continued coal-fired electricity in comparison to the long-term investment in renewable energy sources is over.

Organisations like The ASPO (Australian Association for the study of Peak Oil And Gas) have made it powerfully clear scientifically that our fossil fuel based society is on the brink of collapse. Any plan to continue expanding The Fossil Fuel Industry is a ridiculous proposition driven by short term greed and self interest. Our leaders (at this point in time), do not appear to consider the long term impacts of this industry and the catastrophic ramifications both on the local level and internationally.

7. Subsidence

The anticipated subsidence issues with this underground mine are reported by Kores as being:

Hue Hue Area 600mm to 1 metre, Valley Area(floodplain) 1,2 to 1.4 metres and in the Forest Area 1.5 to 2 metres. What this means for those unfortunate residents in that area is their duck ponds will disappear and their houses will drop not just in price but will actually drop up to two metres.  And let us not forget again, as is always the case with mining applications, that the companies paid to create these reports are not hired to project outcomes that do not support the company that hires them.

I fail to fathom how any resident on the Central Coast would not be absolutely outraged at an elected Government that could do this to its own people. And for what, a few hundred jobs for a finite period of time at the long term environmental expense of our water catchment, our tourism, our agriculture, our cultural heritage and the health of our community.

Paul Robert Burton

Concerned Central Coast Resident, Minister of Religion, Musician, Environmental Protector and Fundamental Human Rights Advocate.