WHITEHAVEN Coal has stated in its preliminary environmental assessment that there is the potential for impacts on local and regional groundwater levels, quality and flow direction associated with its proposed expanded Vickery Coal project.
The company is seeking state government approval to increase the mine footprint by 970 hectares, which has raised the ire of some nearby farmers who fear the environment and water resources may be under threat.
The proposal shows new mining areas, including the Blue Vale Open Cut, believed to be at least about 500m from the Namoi River, as well as an increase in production to 10mtpa, a Coal Handling Preparation Plant, train load-out facility and rail loop.
The company plans to submit its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the state government within the next six months, however its preliminary environmental assessment states there are potential impacts on local and regional groundwater resources and surface water.
The possible key environmental issues relate to the potential drawdown of groundwater levels, alteration of groundwater flow directions and a decrease in baseflow to surface water systems due to depressurisation associated with the development of the mine, impacts on groundwater quality and long-term changes to groundwater levels.
The Department of the Environment’s Environmental Reporting Tool identifies that 20 listed threatened species and five listed ecological communities may occur within five kilometres of the proposed new mine area.The department considers that there are “likely to be significant impacts” to the regent honeyeater, swift parrot and koala and there is some risk there “may” be impacts to the corne’s long-eared bat, large-eared pied bat, large pied bat and murray cod.
Whitehaven states the drafting of its EIS is “well advanced” and the mine start-up date is market dependent, however it will not occur prior to Maules Creek ramping up to 13mtpa. It said detailed, independent, impact assessments across a whole range of areas will be carried out, including groundwater and surface water modelling.
“What is a fact, is that the NSW Government will only approve the extension project when it is satisfied that we have addressed those matters that we are required to address by legislation, in addition to demonstrating we have listened to, and properly responded to, any concerns and questions from the local community,’ a Whitehaven spokesperson said.