Wollongong Council object to Russell Vale Colliery expansion

A previous demonstration against Russell Vale Colliery’s expansion plans at cataract Dam

WOLLONGONG City Council has voted unanimously to write to the Independent Planning Commission to formally object to the expansion of Russell Vale Colliery by Wollongong Coal.

The Council’s opposition to Wollongong Coal’s expansion plans, comes as students plan to take to the streets of Wollongong this Sunday to demand climate action. The protest will be part of a national set of demonstrations calling for an end to any new coal, oil and gas projects.

The demonstrators will also call for the closure of coal mines both in the Illawarra and nationally, and an end to the destruction of sacred Indigenous sites. The protesters will assemble at the Wollongong Town Hall at 1pm before marching through the streets.

The motion to oppose the expansion of Russell Vale Colliery was put to the ordinary meeting of Wollongong City Council by Greens councillor, Cath Blakey on Monday October 26. 

While the Council has declared a climate emergency and set a zero net emissions target for 2030, this is the first time it has lodged an objection to a mining project in the traditional coal mining region.

The Council’s objection will be made on the grounds of increased heavy vehicle traffic, dust, noise, threat to the drinking water catchment, Aboriginal heritage sites and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as Wollongong Coal’s poor track record on workplace safety, debt servicing and operating compliance. 

Community group Protect Our Water Alliance (POWA) has welcomed the move by the Council.

POWA spokesperson Craig Perritt said the group has been a vocal opponent of mining on the water catchment for the Illawarra and Sydney.

“Ongoing problems with subsidence, upsidence, the draining of creeks, contamination of waterways and the daily loss of millions of litres of drinking water will only be made worse by the expansion of existing mining projects in the water catchment,” Mr Perritt said.

“It is heartening to see Wollongong City Council recognise the very serious impact that coal mining in the water catchment has on local residents. More than five million people rely on the water collected by our precious catchment, and when we think back to last summer’s drought and horrific fire season, it’s easy to see why looking after our water catchment is so important.”

The Bulli & Clifton Times have approached Wollongong Coal for comment. However in a previous statement the colliery said environmental and social studies for a revised mine plan commenced in 2017, with a detailed round of engagement undertaken with key stakeholders and local residents.

“The revised mine plan has been developed in response to government and community concerns regarding the potential environmental and social impacts of the project,” a spokesperson said in the statement.

“In particular, concerns regarding potential subsidence related impacts of mining on groundwater, surface water and biodiversity, as well as noise impacts on the local community.”

Wollongong Coal said key project changes include use of non-caving first workings mining methods with negligible subsidence and environmental impacts – longwall mining is no longer proposed; a reduced production rate and substantial redesign of the Russell Vale Pit Top to reduce noise impacts on the local community, as well as improve surface water management.

The closing date for submissions on the Russell Vale Underground Expansion Project to the Independent Planning Commission has been extended until November 2 2020.

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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