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									MINING IN THE ULAN WOLLAR AREA & Impacts on the Goulburn River
See www.savethedrip.com for more information

June 2008 - Update of the Moolarben Coal Mine (MCM)

The Moolarben Coal Project (Felix Resources – White Industries) was approved 6 September 2007
and granted a Mining Lease plus an additional Exploration Licence over 1145 hectares on
20 December 2007. The Exploration Licences now cover an area of 12,145ha from Cooks Gap
and Munghorn Gap in the south and east over the Goulburn River Gorges in the north.

MCM recently applied for Stage Two extension in May 2008. They propose to operate Stage Two
in conjunction with Stage One comprising three underground and four open cut coal mines. Stage
Two application seeks approval to increase production from 13 Mtpa to 17 Mtpa ROM. MCM
will have a life span of approximately 27 years at full extraction rates and operate 24 hours per
day, 7 days per week

Stage Two application is for:
    An open cut mine of approximately 1270ha within the floor of the Murragamba Valley
      producing up to 13 Mtpa ROM;
    Two underground mines below the sandstone ridges to produce up to 4 Mtpa ROM from
      Underground No 1 and 4 Mtpa ROM from Underground No2 with a combined area of 990ha.

Stage Two issues include:
    Diversion and relocation of both Murragamba and “Eastern” Creeks. The final creek
      alignment in some sections will be located in mine spoil as opposed to virgin ground.
    Interference to groundwater soaks, spring-fed dams, springs and bores. It will be difficult
      to dewater the mine areas without impacting these supplies.
    Permanent damage to groundwater dependant ecosystem (GDE) identified in the north
      east of Open Cut 4. Shallow perched aquifers supporting phreatophytic vegetation may be
      drained either directly by the dewatering or indirectly through breaching of underlying
      aquitards as a result of subsidence impacts and or dewatering of open cuts;
    Impacts to a Critically Endangered Ecological Community (CEEC) - White Box/Yellow
      Box/Blakely‟s Redgum (WBYBBR) within the Commonwealth Environmental Protection
      and Biodiversity Act;
    Damage to archaeological sites - artwork and rock shelter of potentially regional
      significance comparablel to “Hands on Rock”;

Moolarben Stage One (approved) includes;
   Underground mine adjacent to the outstanding Goulburn River sandstone Gorges
   3 open cuts along the Moolarben valley floor (715ha footprint)
   Clearing of 416.6 ha native vegetation (S5 p. 96). Loss of 65ha of Ecologically
      Endangered Community with 2:1 offset (inconsistent with clearing regulations applying to
      farmers)
   Coal washery consuming over 6.9 Million L/day
   Borefield adjacent to the Goulburn River and National Park resulting in extensive
      lowering of groundwater levels. Modelling suggests groundwater inflow to between 4.6 -
      27ML/day into underground mine
   2MT/year of coal haulage by train through Mudgee & Gulgong to Lithgow will result in
      delays at level crossings through both towns plus inevitable increase in noise levels.




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Background to Mining in the Ulan Area
A small coal mine using pit ponies operated at Ulan before 1980. In the 1980s Ulan Coal mines
developed their open cut mine and longwall operation.

In 1981 White Mining1 diverted the Goulburn River around their open cut mine. Approximately
3.6kms was moved 700m to the east to form a 4.2 kms steep-sided channel. The river
diversion has never been adequately rehabilitated and has left a legacy of an unstable diversion
channel with active bank erosion immediately adjacent to the open cut void filled with coal rejects,
tailings and overburden. It continues to impact on downstream water quality particularly after
significant rain events.

Ulan Coal Mine has had to deal with increasing amounts of excess water especially from their
underground mine and for many years discharged this water into the river with no limit on the level
of salinity. Due to community pressure stricter conditions on the quality of the mine water discharged
offsite were gradually introduced from 2000.

The Ulan Mine currently produces between 11-15 Million litres water/day from their
underground mine. (1ML= 1 Olympic swimming pool). This is predicted to increase to over 18
Ml/day by 2011. Currently about 3-4Ml/day is used for washing the coal and dust suppression. The
mine installed a desalination plant (reverse osmosis) in 2006. The poorer quality water is „shandied‟
with cleaner water to use for irrigation and to discharge into Ulan Creek/Goulburn River. Now they
have a license to discharge up to 15Ml/day of water (Maximum salinity of 800-900 µS/cm which is 2-
3 times background levels)

Ulan Coal Mine (Xstrata) recently installed the widest underground coal face in the world
(400m longwall) and is proposing to increase coal production from 10 MT – to 20MT/annum.
This involves a second underground mine (Ulan West) and a further extension to the open cut.

1. Mining Impacts on Groundwater and River System
The impact of up to three large and expanding coal mines in the Ulan Wollar area raises many
questions about interference to regional groundwater and long term viability and integrity of the
Goulburn River, a major tributary of the Hunter River. By 2011 the combined total water being
removed from the groundwater system by mining could be well in excess of 30 Million litres/day2.

Recent reports by Coffey & Associates (contracted by Ulan Coal Mines) indicate that mining, mine
subsidence and dewatering of the underground has disrupted the upper Triassic groundwater
system and affected the base flow of the Goulburn River. Studies suggest 1-2 Ml/day is leaking
into adjacent old mine workings from the river diversion and from the cracking of Ulan creek. The
Moolarben Coal Mine has not adequately considered the cracking of the Triassic aquifers (due to
mine subsidence) or the interaction with their bore field in their predictions.

Longwall mining creates „subsidence‟ that fractures and distorts the surface and underlying rock
strata and associated aquifers (underground water). This can reduce surface runoff and interfere
with the „connectivity‟ or underground water flow linking aquifers with the river. The groundwater
can also become contaminated by salts and other minerals (e.g. Iron oxides, Pyrites) disturbed by
the mining process posing a long term risk to the health of the groundwater and river system
(acidity and salinity). Predicting surface movements and subsidence resulting from long wall
mining is very problematic. Past assumptions as to the behaviour of cliff falls and cracking have


1
    Now part of Felix Resources & owners of the Moolarben Coal Project
2
    Ulan CM = 18Ml +Wilpinjong CM = 6.2 Ml + Moolarben Mines = 6.9Ml

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been shown to be unreliable3 and at best informed guesswork based on data from other
underground mines that differ in depth, width of seam extraction and proximity to river.
The Moolarben underground mine extends up to 80m from the river banks and beneath the
saturated Triassic strata whose aquifers feed the river. A 4.5m band of coal is to be extracted
within 450 - 500m of Goulburn Rover gorge. There is a potential „risk‟ that cliffs may crack and
„some minor fracturing of the river bed may occur’4. The fragile undercut vertically jointed
sandstone formations found along the Goulburn River are vulnerable to even small seismic
movements.

The four open cut mines stretch along a major catchment tributary upstream, in the water rich
Moolarben and Murragamba valleys. Open-cut mining upends the landscapes, diverts and
degrades surface and underground water flow and involves massive land clearing of native flora
and fauna habitat.
The million dollar question is what will happen to the water when mining ceases?
Will the groundwater reservoirs ever recover? What will be the water quality and salinity levels of
water draining from mined areas? (Cessnock has a huge problem with acid and saline water
leakage from old coal shafts). What affect will this have on river flow through the Goulburn River
Gorges, National Park, local bores, soaks and springs as well as downstream irrigators?
2. Biodiversity - Mine rehabilitation has not adequately restored natural landforms, vegetation
communities or quality habitat. There has been an overall net loss of biodiversity, especially on
the over cleared valley floor of the Hunter region.
The Moolarben Coal Stage One will clear 416 hectares of native vegetation including critically
endangered ecological community (CEEC), White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely's Red Gum Grassy
Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands. It was called in as a controlled action under the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and later approved by the
previous Federal Government in November 2007 while in caretaker mode. The Wilpinjong
Opencut Coal Mine (immediately to the east) will clear an additional 47 hectares of CEEC
vegetation within its 2800 hectare footprint. These woodlands provide habitat for nationally listed
endangered fauna species including the Swift Parrot, Squirrel Glider and Regent Honeyeater.
3. Cumulative environmental effects of the three mines have not been adequately assessed.
There are likely to be serious long term impacts on the hydrology (surface & ground water) and a
net loss to biodiversity.
The „acceptable‟ cumulative noise level has been set at 50Db. Currently residents in the Cumbo
Valley, Ulan and Wollar are finding 24 hours of 35-40Db noise levels unbearable.
4. Greenhouse Gas and impact on Climate Change - By 2012 the three mines intend to
extracti over 47 million tonnes per year of coal from the Ulan Wollar area. This amount of fossil
carbon fuel will produce well over 120 million tonnes of greenhouse gases which is 1.5. times the
total emissions from the whole transport system for Australia (79 Mt CO2-e - ABS 2004 ).
5. Recommendations
      •   Independent Regional Water Survey to determine the full environmental impacts of all
          three mines on the groundwater and river system
      •   1 kilometre buffer zone around the Goulburn River Gorges – underground mining should
          not extend under the „saturated‟ Triassic rock strata adjacent to the river system
      •   Extension National Park - Leasehold Crown land surrounding the Drip & Goulburn River
          Gorge should be included into the adjoining Goulburn River National Park
      •   Audit of rehabilitated areas to identify how successful or otherwise current practices are in
          restoring ecologically resilient natural systems
      •   An enquiry into the effects of dust and noise on public health and suitability of the current
          regulatory conditions governing coal mines

3
    MSEC comments p. 35 in Moolarben Coal Project Response to Submissions Feb 2007
4
    MSEC comments p.33 A9 in Moolarben CP Response to Submissions Feb 2007

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•   Moratorium on all new coal developments until nil emission technology is available




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