MAC: Mines and Communities

Water supplies at risk from Cadia mine upgrade: Greens

Published by MAC on 2010-01-19
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

The expansion of mines already in production is becoming an increasing issue of concern in water-scarce countries, especially where there is a conflict with agriculture.

Water supplies at risk from Cadia mine upgrade: Greens

RUTH POLLARD, Sydney Morning Herald

9 January 2010

A DECISION by the State Government to approve expansion of the massive Cadia Valley gold and copper mine near Orange has drawn harsh criticism from the NSW Greens, who say the mine will put at risk the water supply of many towns in the Central West.

Orange is already on level five restrictions, which limits watering outside the home to one hour between 6pm and 7pm on Sundays. Rainfall at Christmas did nothing to boost the area's water catchments, which remain at 26 per cent of capacity.

A Greens councillor, Jeremy Buckingham, said the mine's ''voracious use of water and energy is completely unsustainable'' and condemned its destruction of 250 hectares of highly important vegetation.

''Water security in Orange will remain critical for years to come and there will remain incredible tension between the mine and the people of Orange, who are facing level six water restrictions, not to mention the impact on towns such as Canowindra, Condobolin and Cowra,'' Mr Buckingham said. ''The mine already uses upwards of 40 to 50 megalitres of water a day in such a critically dry time and in such stressed catchments.''

The Orange Mayor, John Davis, said it was wrong to suggest the mine was putting the water supply at risk. He said the project was environmentally sustainable and responsible for the creation of 880 jobs in the area.

He acknowledged that the mine had been forced to seek council assistance to cover a three-month water shortfall in 2007 and confirmed that the contract that enabled the supply of up to 10 megalitres a day of treated effluent to the mine was being renegotiated.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, yesterday announced approval of the $2 billion expansion of the mine, saying its construction would support 1300 jobs, as well as 880 operational jobs over the extended 20-year life of the mine.

The project - which the Government says will be the largest underground mining operation in Australia, and the second largest goldmine in the world - is expected to deliver more than $1 billion into the local and regional economies.

Cadia Holdings, owned by Newcrest Mining, is expected to develop a new underground mine to the east of the existing Cadia Hill open-cut mine.

The Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, said concerns over the mine's water usage had been addressed in the planning process.

Independent hydrology experts found Cadia could access enough water under existing licences to meet the project's needs.

Cadia expansion sparks water worries

By Meredith Griffiths for AM, ABC Network

9 January 2010

The New South Wales Government has approved plans to develop the nation's largest underground gold mine near Orange in the state's central west.

It is supposed to inject $1 billion into the region's economy but some locals are worried there is not enough water to support such a large mine.

Orange is just one of the prime agricultural areas where there is growing concern about the encroachment of mining companies.

The rolling hills around Orange have traditionally been known for their apples, pears and cherries.

But Mayor John Davis says recently the local economy has been dependent on the mining at nearby Cadia Valley.

So he is thrilled the mine is going to be expanded, creating new employment opportunities.

"880 permanent jobs [and] in the initial stages well over 2,000 jobs," he said.

"So what it's going to do is give a positive outlook for the community at large within the region.

"And it's bigger than that because what it actually does is gives our young people the opportunity to have an employment stream in. They can become engineers, they can become environmental people in the field and get jobs within this region."

Building Australia's largest underground coal mine will inject $1 billion into the local economy and keep operations there going for an extra 20 years.

Water issues

However the new development will use an extra six million litres of water a day.

That is a big ask for a city which is on the highest level of water restrictions and a region where dam levels are extremely low.

Mining company Newcrest says investigations have found the development will have little impact on local water supplies and that several projects are planned to offset the increased demand.

But some residents are still worried. Neil Jones sits on the local council and is also the president of the group Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange.

"They're now using water above and beyond what the river system was catering for," Mr Jones said.

"And so we're going to see this increased pressure on both the surface water and the underground water as well."

New South Wales Planning Minister Tony Kelly says the department has imposed has 78 environment management conditions on the development.

"The two independent hydrology experts found that Cadia was able to access enough water to meet the project's ongoing water needs from a number of sources and they include more efficient use and increased storage from the mine's existing dams," he said.

"One thing that should be pointed out is that approximately 80 per cent of the water to be used by the mine will come from recycled sources."

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally was in Orange to personally announce the expansion yesterday.

But Mr Jones says he does not trust her to make sure that the mine does not take water away from local residents.

"The State Government sees any new mining development as a bit of a cash flow without paying due regard to the environmental implications," he said.

He is not the only one worried about the State Government's approach to mining.

This week horse breeders used the Magic Millions sales to raise concerns that their industry is coming under threat because of the encroachment of mining into the Upper Hunter Valley.

Henry Plumptre is leading the campaign.

"Our feeling is that rightly or wrongly this State Government is probably as much in self-preservation mode as it is for any other form of preservation," he said.

"Economic recovery is perhaps one of the things that they can hope for in the next 15 months. And at the background of that economy recovery would be a very strong mining industry.

"That is why we are gearing up our campaign to basically get involved in all of that application process and to question things and slow the whole process down."

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