ANOTHER coalmine on the Liverpool Plains is one step closer, with BHP Billiton yesterday announcing its intention to develop a detailed mine plan for its Caroona project.
Caroona’s acting head of projects Darren Swain said the completion of the Namoi Catchment Water Study in July paved the way for the company to progress its mining plans, having promised in 2009 to consider the outcomes of the study in any future mining proposal.
He said the company had undertaken exploration drilling activities to gain information on the coal resource, groundwater and geological features in the exploration licence area since 2006.
“The comprehensive data collected from these drilling activities, combined with the results of the Namoi Catchment Water Study, provide the information needed to design a detailed proposed mine plan,” Mr Swain said.
He said an environmental impact statement would be prepared once a proposed mine plan was completed.
But the plan has Caroona Coal Action Group enraged.
Spokesman Tim Duddy said BHP Billiton might have waited for the study, but did not take into account its recommendations for further investigation.
The contractors that undertook the study said development was not likely to pose a risk to water on a regional scale, but admitted there were data gaps, including on the potential impacts on groundwater quality and the connectivity of aquifiers.
“Putting forward a mine proposal without understanding what they’re going to harm, in one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country, is a pretty big faux pas,” Mr Duddy said.
He said BHP Billiton should also wait until a scientific committee appointed by the federal government to look into coal and coal seam gas impacts on water – which had made the Namoi catchment a priority area – carried out their investigations.
“They don’t have the information they need to establish they won’t cause environmental harm,” Mr Duddysaid.
“They should be assessing what other work needs to be done, and what needs to be done to ensure water resources aren’t harmed.”