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Mining action plan to help ensure Sydney’s water security

The New South Wales (NSW) Government has accepted all 50 recommendations of an independent expert panel, led by the office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, seeking to address the impacts of mining on Greater Sydney’s water catchment.

The panel of experts and researchers, including members from the University of NSW, the University of Queensland and the NSW Office for Water, set out advice under three categories: mine design, mine approval and monitoring and performance. 

Building on the 2008 Southern Coalfield Inquiry, which represented a landmark development of the then-current state of knowledge of the impacts of underground coal mining on natural features, the panel looked at the impact of the four active mines in the Greater Sydney Water Catchment, with a particular focus on risks to the quantity of water in the catchment.

It found better monitoring of groundwater and surface water was required.

“In future, mines operating in the Special Areas need to develop, in consultation and with the agreement of regulators and key stakeholders, a standard for field investigations, data collection and data processing that provides for and integrates the interests of all stakeholders and facilitates the sharing of the information by being presented on a common platform,” the panel wrote.

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the government had developed an action plan to apply the recommendations.

“We want to ensure we have every measure in place to protect Sydney’s water supply for generations to come,” Stokes said

“We’ve accepted all of the recommendations from the panel and have established an interagency taskforce to implement a detailed action plan throughout this year.”

The action plan will lead to improved water security for the region, Stokes said. 

“These actions will improve our existing comprehensive assessment and monitoring of underground coal mining, while providing certainty for both Sydney’s water supply and thousands of jobs across NSW – particularly 5000 workers in the Illawarra.”

The action plan includes: 

  • ensuring a net gain for Sydney’s metropolitan water supply by introducing increased offsetting from mining companies; 
  • establishing an independent panel to advise on future mining applications in the catchment;
  • enhancing surface and groundwater monitoring; 
  • improving transparency of environmental data; and
  • undertaking further research into mine closure planning to reduce potential long-term impacts.

For more information, take a look at the panel’s report.