Victory for community and environment

Cracks in the Waratah rivulet bedrock caused by long-wall mining.

In a win for community campaigners and the environment, BHP Billiton has dropped plans for a massive long-wall mine under the pristine Dharawal State Conservation Area (DSCA) on the NSW south coast.

The decision came on October 26 after a review by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission that said society would be better off without the mine.

Importantly, the review backed up the argument made by community groups that “remediation”, where the company would take responsibility for cleaning up the site, is a myth in these circumstances.

“Remediation cannot be considered at this time to be an alternative to prevention where the functionality of water-dependent natural features is an objective”, it said, adding it was “no longer a viable proposition for mining to cause more than negligible damage to pristine or near-pristine waterways in drinking water catchments”.

The Rivers SOS Alliance, who has campaigned against BHP's plans, said on October 27: “We congratulate the company for this enlightened decision. No congratulations or thanks to the NSW government, its ministers and its compromised agencies, which as recently as October 19 signed a memorandum of understanding with BHP Billiton to mine in the DSCA.”

The October 28 Sydney Morning Herald said: “The commission identified a problem with allowing mining companies to decide which natural features in their targeted areas should be granted ‘special significance’, a status that can accord them extra protection.

“It noted that BHP Billiton's proposal found one area of possible special significance in the entire mining zone — the Nepean River.'

The commission's report noted: “None of the other 46 streams … none of the 226 upland swamps, none of the 634 cliffs … and none of the 632 Aboriginal heritage sites in the study area succeeded in crossing the proponent's threshold for special significance.”

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