Locals oppose coalmine expansion

Bellambi Lane in suburban Wollongong could see a coal truck every minute if the Russell Vale coalmine is expanded. Photo: Chris

More than 60 people attended a public meeting in Russell Vale, north of Wollongong, on February 3 to oppose a massive coalmine expansion in their neighbourhood.

The meeting was organised by Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining (IRRM).

Gujurat NRE, owner of No. 1 Colliery in Russell Vale, wants to expand the colliery's current output by 7.5 times — from 400,000 tonnes a year to 3 million tonnes.

Under the plan, 176,500 truck movements will take place each year through suburban areas, IRRM says. Local residents raised concerns about a rise in noise and air pollution from mine operations and trucking.

Kaye Osborn, a local resident and spokesperson for IRRM, told the meeting: “We were told in 2001 that this area here, the site of the old South Bulli Colliery which the No. 1 colliery now occupies, would become a residential sub-division and a park.

“Then Gujarat NRE took over the mine in 2004 and made statements that they would take coal out through Cordeaux Mine utilising BHP facilities and transport the coal by train to the Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT).

“But then the colliery reneged on this and we are in the situation we are in now — with Gujarat NRE currently extracting and trucking 400,000 tons of coal a year.

“Residents living along the route to the PKCT have endured years of problems with noise and air pollution.

“Numerous complaints have been made about trucks speeding, dropping coal on the road and spreading dust because they are inappropriately loaded and covered and violating commitments to limit trucking to certain hours.”

Osborn said the residents’ complaints had not been addressed.

“Again we can see that the trucking of large amounts of coal through an area where families are living is not acceptable in this day and age,” she said. “This isn’t working even with the current 400,000 tons a year.

“We have tried to calculate what the proposed increase to 3 million tons per annum would mean in terms of trucking.

“It’s difficult, as we can only guess the kind of vehicles that will be used and the volume they will carry. However, we could estimate that transporting 3 million tons of coal a year to the PKCT by truck along Bellambi Lane may result in one truck leaving the mine every minute.”

The meeting passed several resolutions. One motion called on the NSW planning department to reject the company’s application “until Gujarat NRE has developed an alternative to the transport of coal by road.”

The meeting also called for a 40km/h speed limit to apply to trucks exiting the mine along Bellambi Road, and for 24-hour air quality, noise and vibration monitoring of the colliery's operations within three months, in consultation with IRRM.

The final resolution adopted by the meeting called for “a one kilometre lateral buffer zone” between Gujarat NRE’s mine operation and “all river and dam systems and waterways, to protect them from damage through the effects of mining under, or too close to, the rivers, aquifers and wetlands that feed them”.

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