Hume Coal is about to lodge plans for a massive coalmine that, if approved, will be the first large scale coking coal mining operation in the Southern Highlands. The coal will be destined for POSCO's steel mills in South Korea. Hume Coal is fully owned by POSCO.
According to the company's website, the mine will be located underground in the Sutton Forest area, roughly 10 kilometres from Moss Vale in the NSW Southern Highlands. The underground parts of the mine will extend from the Illawarra Highway in the south to the Belanglo State Forest in the west.
The potential environmental damage from the mine is serious, as the coal Hume wants to mine sits right under an aquifer. Hume Coal claims that they "have designed a mining system that will have no long term impact on water", and that "after a period of time, the groundwater will recover (bounce back) to the pre-mining level".
Campaigners estimate that up to 20 gigalitres of water a year could flood the mine. In addition, toxic substances from the mining process will be pumped back underground and could contaminate groundwater.
Towns such as Bowral, which are downwind of the proposed coal stockpile, could be susceptible to coal dust that escapes the site.
Another impact is groundwater loss from the mine. According to an independent report commissioned by the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group, estimates show groundwater levels could fall by more than 100 metres across 300 square kilometres, meaning bores could go dry and shallow and deep-rooted flora could be affected.
Other potential impacts include drinking water loss due to risk of the local Medway Reservoir being compromised by mining in the vicinity, and the danger of coal dust entering the drinking water.
If approved, Hume Coal's continuous operation will see 8 trains a day with 44 wagons each passing through Southern Highlands villages en route to Port Kembla, where the coal will be exported.
Coal Free Southern Highlands is hosting a public forum at Moss Vale RSL on August 11 at 6.30pm with Rod Campbell from the Australia Institute and Tim Buckley from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Battle for Berrima is holding a community information session at Apex Oval in Burradoo on August 20, from 11am to 1pm.