Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon last night in federal parliament pointed the finger at state and federal governments for not considering the cumulative impact of the Mudgee mega coal mines - Ulan, Wilpinjong, Moolarben - on the precious Goulburn water catchment.
In her speech to the Senate (in full below), Senator Rhiannon noted the massive scale of the foreign-owned Ulan, Wilpinjong and Moolarben mines. Combined these mines will produce a total of 52 million tonnes of coal each year, destined for export to Asian markets:
"When burnt ... coal from the Ulan, Wilpinjong and Moorlarben mines will generate 135 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year," Senator Rhiannon said.
Senator Rhiannon pointed out that the cumulative impact of mines on the region's land, groundwater, aquifers and ecosystems is ignored in the approval process. She spoke specifically of the impact on the Goulburn River catchment:
"Already degraded both in flow and water quality, the Goulburn River faces increasing threats from the insatiable expansion of the three local but foreign owned mega coal mines-Ulan, Wilpinjong and Moolarben. These three mines now draw 30 to 40 million litres of water per day-around 10 to 12 gigalitres per annum-from a catchment area already stressed by the cumulative impact of years of coal mining.
"The impact of relentless groundwater extraction, interference with and contamination of aquifer and river systems, mining subsidence, mine dewatering and on-site usage is so clearly unsustainable and yet mining continues to expand. There is no accurate modelling currently available to adequately predict the impacts on river and groundwater systems. They just do not know"
Senator Rhiannon referred specifically to the fate reserved for two magnificent and unique natural features of the Goulburn River-the Corner Gorge and the Drip Gorge:
"When I first visited the Drip Gorge I was in awe of its sheer beauty. The giant cliff face towered over us and a wall-like wave, constantly dripping, was covered in a tangle of greenery. It was so stunning. The locals treasure it and have campaigned for its inclusion in the nearby national park.
"In 2007 then NSW planning minister Frank Sartor's mine project approval insisted that the Moolarben mine must ensure that the Drip, Goulburn River Gorge and bed of the Goulburn River remain outside the zone of recorded subsidence damage for longwall mining.
"... Yet recently under the NSW government these irreplaceable natural wonders, once situated on crown lease sites, were privatised to freehold title as part of an offset strategy. These precious parts of the Goulburn River Gorge are now privately owned by the Chinese corporation Yankuang.
Senator Rhiannon concluded by criticising the offset strategy used by Moolarben:
"The offset strategies are a con. ...All the biodiversity offsets in Moolarben's case are located outside the Hunter Valley catchment. They do not represent like for like, nor do they replace the net loss to the bioregion or to the east-west corridor connecting the western woodlands with coastal forests. It is absolutely farcical. Worse still, in Moolarben's latest project application, the offset package no longer includes the Drip Gorge and the Corner Gorge despite the former requirements set out by the New South Wales planning department."