If Wollongong Coal gets the go ahead to expand its Russell Vale mine the result could be significant damage to Sydney’s drinking water catchment, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

The national environment group has joined with local residents to oppose the plan and call on the Federal Environment Minister to intervene.

“Wollongong Coal proposes to mine within one of the Special Areas of the Sydney Water Catchment, even though NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts has recognised these areas as very sensitive and important for safe drinking water supply,” said ACF campaigner Basha Stasak.

“It makes no sense that a bushwalker caught wandering within a Special Area can be fined up to $44,000 but a coal company may be allowed to mine there.

“ACF is worried Wollongong Coal’s plans to extend its mine to within a few hundred metres of the Cataract Dam will recklessly risk damaging Sydney’s water supply, the health of Russell Vale residents and the habitat of endangered species,” Ms Stasak said.

Local resident Kaye Osborn, from Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining, caused a stir when she collected a jar of contaminated water from the creek near the existing mine (not within the Special Area) and took it to a public meeting.

“This catchment is part of a system supplying 4.6 million residents of Greater Sydney,” Ms Osborn said. “It’s not worth risking this incredible natural drinking water.”

The federal government’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee and the Sydney Catchment Authority have both expressed concerns about coal mining in the catchment.

ACF’s Basha Stasak said Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt had the power to stop the mine expansion and protect Sydney’s drinking water.

“ACF calls on Minister Hunt to intervene to stop this expansion and protect Sydney’s water for current and future generations,” Ms Stasak said.

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Journalists with enquiries may contact Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email [email protected]