The NSW Greens have called for moratorium on the issuing of water licenses in the Murray-Darling Basin until a thorough independent study of the cumulative impact of mining on water resources in the basin has been made.
The call came from an August 25 public forum hosted by the Greens in Orange. The meeting was attended by 50 people representing more than 40 resident action groups struggling against the degradation of land and water by mines in various parts of NSW.
The mining industry is the most intensive user and polluter of water in NSW. In addition to coalmines, there are 100 metal mines in NSW making huge demands on water resources.
The Barrick goldmine at Lake Cowal, for example, has licenses to extract up to 17 megalitres daily from the Lachlan River and the Bland aquifer. This is approximately equivalent to 17 Olympic size swimming pools and to the domestic water usage of Dubbo.
The difference is that domestic grey water and sewage can be recycled. Barrick's waste water is poisoned by heavy metals and left behind in huge tailings dams, a permanent toxic legacy.
The NSW government has recently issued 83 new exploration licenses, most of them in western and central NSW. Each new mine will require a license to draw on water reserves currently used by towns and farms.
The forum heard about the irreparable damage done to rivers and aquifers by open-pit and longwall coalmining, the state Labor government's general unresponsiveness to citizens' concerns, and the deceitfulness of the NSW state development minister Ian McDonald.
Participants expressed deep concern about the encroaching corporatisation of water, which will inevitably mean that the short-term profits of multinational mining companies will be prioritised over domestic needs and the long-term viability of food production in Murray-Darling Basin.