On 1 September 2010 an independent water expert, Schlumberger Water Services, was contracted by the NSW Government to carry out a study on the possible effects of coal mining and coal seam gas developments on the Namoi Water Catchment in the northwest of NSW.
Using extensive research to objectively assess and determine the risks, it was found that current coal mining and planned coal and coal seam gas developments would have minimal impact on the region’s high value alluvial aquifers.
The study was conducted in close consultation with the local community and agricultural industry, who helped in the selection of the independent consultancy and the design of the study.
The modeling covered seven scenarios which included current levels of mining up to a hypothetical scenario elevating mining to sixteen times its current level.
Even in these exaggerated scenarios, which are well beyond any planned development by the industry, the combined impacts of mining and coal seam gas on the high value alluvial aquifers were relatively small in comparison to existing ground water extraction.
While the study looks at potential impacts at a regional scale, mining companies will still need to undertake detailed assessments to accurately determine their potential impacts at the local level and whether they can be appropriately managed.
The Overall Result
Mining projects that are responsibly planned can be developed in the Gunnedah Basin alongside a strong and productive agriculture sector. Both industries offer diversity and a number of economic benefits to the local area.
Myth The coal mining industry doesn’t want any water studies done on the impact mining will have on local water systems. Fact The mining industry welcomes the results of the Namoi Catchment Water Study. Mining companies are also required to fund and undertake detailed water studies as part of the planning and assessment of a mining project to determine the best ways to protect water resources. And mining is supportive of both independent and government studies, as the more scientific information, the better we are all able to understand and protect our water supplies.
Myth Coal mining in the Gunnedah basin poses a serious risk to the Namoi Water Catchment and the region’s agricultural sector. Mining and agriculture cannot coexist. Fact Mining takes up less than 0.1% of land in the region, and independent water consultants contracted by the NSW Government have indicated there would be minimal impacts on the high value alluvial aquifers caused by mining, even using assumptions that overestimate the likely impacts. More studies will be done to consider any local impacts on water at sites where mines may be developed.
Myth Mining in the Gunnedah Basin has reached a threshold beyond which any more mining will signal the end of agriculture in the region. Fact Independent water consultants tested a number of scenarios in consultation with the NSW Government and local agricultural industry. Using extensive scientific data to model even a “worst case” scenario of mining increasing to sixteen times the current level, they found coal mining would pose less risk than existing ground water extraction which includes drawdowns by the region’s agricultural sector.
Myth Any growth in coal mining will see mines using more than their fair share of our water resources. Fact Each mining project has detailed scientific studies done before any project. If impacts on water can’t be managed, then the project won’t proceed. All mines need to obtain licences in accordance with water sharing plans for any water they use, just like other water users. They must also outline any potential impacts on water resources and how they will be managed, and obtain water licences for these potential impacts.