The Planning Assessment Commission has not approved Wollongong Coal’s controversial application to expand a coal mine in Sydney’s water catchment, choosing instead to ask the company to provide more information.

The PAC today chose not to approve or reject the company’s application, which would see an expansion of the Russell Vale mine in the catchment area for the Cataract Dam, Sydney’s third largest water storage.

“It’s now up to Wollongong Coal, which currently has a share price of $0.01, to respond to the PAC’s concerns,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner, Nic Clyde.

“This project clearly fails the public interest test, as it will affect Sydney’s water supply, the health of Russell Vale residents and nationally endangered species,” he said.

The Russell Vale project is being developed in exactly the same location as CSG mining license ‘PEL 442’, which Resources Minister Anthony Roberts cancelled before the state election, explaining in a media release, ‘the Special Areas of the Sydney Water Catchment are the most sensitive and important areas for securing our drinking water supply’.

The federal government’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee has said the Russell Vale expansion could affect water storage in Cataract Reservoir ‘by loss of stream flow and base flow in its contributing catchment’ and the Sydney Catchment Authority has also expressed concerns about coal mining in the catchment.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ former department, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, weighed up the ‘impacts to threatened species habitat, impacts to streams, loss of drinking water and damaged and disturbed catchment’ and concluded ‘the project will have an overall negative benefit to cost ratio’.

“Pre-election polling for ACF found more than 80 per cent of the community wants the government to keep its promise to ban mining in the water catchment,” Mr Clyde said. 

“ACF will continue to campaign vigorously on behalf of this overwhelming majority.”

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