BCCAN submission to Airly coal mine expansion application

Airly mine - ABCBACKGROUND (September 2015): Centennial coal is applying to expand its coal mining operations at Airly in the Capertee Valley northeast of Bathurst. This is BCCAN's submission to the planning authorities, opposing the expansion. The following submission was written by BCCAN chair Tracey Carpenter.

(Image embedded from ABC Rural News)

Bathurst Community Climate Action Network Submission to the review of  the Airly Mine Extension Project

Bathurst Community Climate Action Network, as a volunteer based community group working in this region for improved climate change policies, opposes the Airly Mine extension based on the long-term costs of global warming from the mining of coal.  These dwarf any shortterm economic benefit of extending the life of this particular coalmine. The continued expansion of coal mining in our region will make a significant contribution to Australia’s already dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions.   Further, the Capertee Valley is a fragile environment and this application to extend the life of the mine poses severely deleterious effects on this environment, local biodiversity, local water resources and geological formations as well as upon the lifestyle and livelihood of residents in the valley.

BCCAN believes the scientific evidence is sufficient for planning decisions in NSW to rule out new coalmining approvals. We cite two authorities for this view. First, the Climate Change Authority has reported that to have a 67% chance of keeping under 2°C warming, the world's carbon budget 2000­2050 is 1700 GtCO2e. (Based on this, the CCA puts Australia’s share of this carbon budget for 2013­2050 at 10.1GtCO2e. If all of Australia’s coal resources were burned, the carbon released would consume two­-thirds of the global carbon budget. It is likely that over 90% of Australian coal reserves are unburnable under even the most generous carbon budget. Australia has 77Gt known coal reserves, enough to produce 150GtCO2e, 15 times our budget to 2050. Further,

We oppose further expansion of the coal industry as analysis released by the international climate research consortium Climate Action Tracker (CAT) which shows that Australia cannot meet its unambitious 2030 reduction target through its Direct Action policies.  Even more alarmingly it shows Australia will in fact increase its emissions by as much as 27% under its current policies and continued heavy reliance on a fossil fuel based economy. As we approach global climate talks in Paris in December and mindful of appeals from world leaders like President Obama and Pope Francis it is clear we no longer have the luxury of pleading for our exclusive short term profits and jobs over the impacts of climate change upon future generations and other nations. With member states of the Pacific Island Forum putting pressure on Australia to limit its coal sector because of its contribution to climate change and sea level rise it is time for our country to limit our emissions at the coalface, as it were.  The time has come for planning authorities to say to mining companies: this coal mine cannot go ahead because of its contribution to climate change because of its threat to future generations and the environment.

With coal prices in steep decline and coal fired power being super-ceded by cleaner, cheaper and sustainable forms of energy globally Lithgow is in urgent need of, not more coal jobs, but new sustainable industries and employment.  The supply of low ash coal from the Lithgow seam is finite and those companies which presently depend upon it will inevitably have to transition to other energy sources. This time has come to stop to the unfettered expansion of coal mining. Time to rapidly phase in a move to renewable sources of energy and explore means of energy efficiency. At a national level, wind, solar, geothermal, wave and tidal energy have the potential to fill any vacuum caused by the scaling down of the burning of fossil fuel.

We note the observations by the Climate Council that Investment in renewable energy has increased six fold since 2004 and businesses around the world are investing more in renewables than coal, oil, and gas combined. In many parts of Australia solar and wind energy have reached ‘grid parity’ and are more cost effective than fossil fuels.  If mines which have reached the extent of their approvals are granted continual extensions Australia will be trapped in the energy economy of the twentieth century and transition will be made even harder.

On top of the threat posed by the continuation of the coal industry in Australia this particular mine extension poses an unacceptable risk to the environment and residents of the Capertee Valley.   Capertee Valley is a particularly dry, drought prone valley, with most of the streams and rivers,like the Capertee, running infrequently. The extension of coal mining on Airly / Genowlan Mountains will further impact surface water and groundwater aquifers. The washery itself uses excessive amounts of water, taken from the underground systems. BCCAN is concerned about the failure to consider downstream impacts on the World Heritage Area.  Operations proposed under Modification 3 can discharge water pollution into Airly Creek. Such discharges would impact on the Gardens of Stone National Park, part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.  If mining is unfortunately continued BCCAN recommends imposing conditions so that reverse osmosis water treatment of all effluent from Airly Colliery must be required to remove all salts and dissolved metals from any discharge to a World Heritage listed property.

BCCAN recommends that the Mugii Murum-ban State Conservation Area be added to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area as recommended by the World Heritage Advisory Committee.  This would protect the high conservation values of the area, and serve the recreational needs of the expanding population in western Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Central West, as well as creating sustainable local employment.

BCCAN urges the Planning Assessment Commission to reject this application to extend this mining consent.  The damage being caused to the local environment by ongoing coal mining and burning of fossil fuels that this both entails and engenders will have irreversible impacts.  The coal industry should not be given the right to destroy the finest sections of our environment and jeopardise the future climate of our children.