Dendrobium's next stage being planned amid water concerns

EXPANSION PLANS: The front gates of the Dendrobium mine at Mt Kembla. Picture: Adam McLean.

EXPANSION PLANS: The front gates of the Dendrobium mine at Mt Kembla. Picture: Adam McLean.

Plans are taking shape for further expansion of South32’s Dendrobium coal mine, despite a government-commissioned report finding the impact of mining on the water catchment was worse than predicted.

The body in charge of the state’s drinking water storage, WaterNSW, has backed calls for greater scrutiny of if and how longwall mining should be allowed under sensitive areas of the catchment. 

This followed a government-commissioned report which showed new cracks to the surface above Dendrobium’s Area 3B longwall sector.

“WaterNSW supports a recommendation for a broader assessment of the cumulative impact of mining in the catchment and is working to identify the most accurate method of assessing water losses due to mining,” WaterNSW said in a statement.

“These observations [of greater cracking] and the study findings both indicate that higher volumes of surface water are being diverted into the underlying rock strata than predicted by mining companies.”

Whether it will affect plans for Dendrobium Areas 5 and 6, which a preliminary environmental assessment shows would be are near Avon and Cordeaux dams, remains to be seen.

A South32 spokeswoman said the mine plans had not been completed.

“We recognise and share community concern regarding the effects of existing mining methods beneath swamps, and have made the early decision not to include in this proposal, mining beneath the swamp-rich area in the north-east of Dendrobium’s mining lease,” she said. “The company has also decided to position longwalls away from key sections of large permanently flowing streams.”

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