Environmental Defender’s Office
Longwall Mining in New South Wales is a highly profitable activity but has severe consequences to the environment particularly the water bodies and the dependants of the aquatic resources. Introduction All businesses have a cooperate responsibility and must not be only guided by the ultimate goal of making profit. Activities such as coal mining are very promising in terms of profits but therein are a greater risk of environmental degradation and subsequent risk to human and animal health.
Longwall coal mining especially in water catchments areas is a potential risk to the environment and its dependants. This report documents the environmental threats of longwall coal mining in New South Wales (NSW) that have resulted to conflicts with the community. Longwall mining in NSW Longwall mining is an underground coal mining process whereby surface subsidence occurs as mining progresses thereby damaging the environment in addition to infrastructure . This coal mining process has been running in NSW as from 1962 and has become a predominant method due to its efficiency in extracting much coal.
The process may be lucrative to the government of NSW due to the high royalties raised from the mines. In 2004/05 financial year for instance, the NSW Government obtained $354 million and these figures are thought to be even higher . The coal companies also reap huge profits considering the increasing global demand for coal. Such huge benefits to the government and the coal companies have however resulted to conflicts with the community due to resultant environmental degradation. Longwall mining as a source of conflict in NSW
Due to its potential to alter habitation thus endangering the survival of threatened species, longwall mining was named as a ‘Key Threatening Process’ by the NSW Scientific Committee . This is because it leads to land subsidence causing water beds to crack and subsequent loss in water flow. Consequently, any organism that depends on aquatic environment faces extinction with the continued practice of longwall mining. This became the source of outcry from the local community and environmental watchdogs. A closer look into the environmental impacts of longwall mining in the NSW clearly justifies the environmentalists and public uproar.
Subsidence results into fractures in surface rock and if this happens along a water course, surface water gets lost to the groundwater beneath. Such an incidence was reported by residents in the Southern Coalfield. In particular, mining activities under the Lower Cataract River by BHP Billiton Coal Company in 1988 through 2000 led to cracking of its riverbeds and subsequent draining away of its waters whereby Tower Colliery got absorbed by Douglas Colliery . Up to 50 percent of Cataract River waters were lost leading to water supply shortages in Sydney.
This loss of water also led to death of aquatic organisms such as fish. The cracking of riverbeds also resulted to compromised water quality. There are a variety of subsurface strata that may come into contact with water as it gets redirected through the cracks. Iron oxide contamination in addition to other solid sediments was particularly cited in NSW. Subsidence in the Waratah Rivulet specifically in the Metropolitan Colliery had massive iron oxide contaminants posing threat to human health and the ecosystem as a whole .
Iron oxide and manganese pollution was also reported in Wallangambe River and Farmers Creek due to mining activities by the Centennial Coal Company. Water quality is also compromised in that pollutant gases are released upon cracking of the rock strata. Methane and other carbon-based gases have a potential to change water chemistry as well as causing soil heating. Total Environmental Center also says that “dieback of riparian vegetation” was seen in Cataract River in the 1990s . The environmentalists and the community also complained of increased slumping due to continued longwall mining in the NSW.
The long term consequences of slumping include loss of water quality and vegetation due to localized erosion. Cliff falls are also a common phenomenon in the coalfields and this causes damage to aboriginal sites. Newnes Plateau as well as the Illawara escarpment have experienced such cliff falls thus interfering with the aboriginal significance . Longwall mining in the NSW has also led to conflict with wildlife. This is particularly when mining is carried out close to national parks.
Despite the knowledge that these activities are a threat to the environment, the NSW government goes for the financial benefits thereof at the expense of the environment. For instance, “in June 2006, the NSW Government granted coal exploration rights to a 350-square-kilometre area of the Liverpool Plains in the Gunnedah Basin” . The government opted for the $100 million offered by BHP Billiton instead of heeding to the complaints of the environmentalists. It is also predicted that vast lands will be rendered untenable for farming due to longwall mining in this region.
Conclusion It is unfortunate that the New South Wales Government together with the coal mine companies have ignored the environment in order to reap the financial gains of the industry. The process of longwall coal mining must be made to adhere to human values much as profit making is a priority. Bibliography Total Environment Centre. Impacts of Longwall Coal Mining on the Environment in New South Wales. Environmental Defender’s Office Ltd. 2007. Retrieved 9, Feb. 2010 from www. bluemountains. org. au/Mining/TEC-LCM-Report-final. pdfSample Essay of Eduzaurus.com