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Environment group slams Gujarat mine expansion

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A proposed coal mine expansion by Gujarat NRE has been slammed by an environmentalist group which claim it poses a major threat to the water catchment area.

A report released by Total Environment Centre (TEC), said the mine expansion has the potential to damage streams and endanger swamps which supply water to the catchment area.

Gujarat lodged a new scaled back “Preferred Project Report” submission with the NSW Department of Planning in October, outlining its expansion plans for Russell Vale mine.

The new report downgraded the mine’s expansion from 18 years to five, while eight shortened longwalls have been proposed as opposed to nine.

Plans to develop seven longwalls at the Wonga West mine have also been scrapped.

However the company said it still plans to ramp up coal production to three million tonnes per year over a five year period.

Gujarat’s head of corporate relations Dr Chris Harvey has previously said approval for the longwall panels is essential to the mine’s future viability.

However TEC claim the PPR’s environmental assessment “underestimates” the impacts of the expansion.

It claims the project would result in ‘‘unacceptable damage to crucial environmental assets’’ in the Woronora Plateau, stating it would damage more than a third of the swamps in the plateau.

The plateau makes up the upper catchment area and includes several rivers including Woronora, Cataract and Avon and is home to five ‘‘special areas’’.

The report says it would be ‘‘inappropriate’’ for the swamps to be subject to any damage.

Gujarat has proposed to monitor the site, but TEC says the only way to ensure to environment stays intact is to ban mining beneath the area.

‘By the time damage has been detected, it is likely that mining will have been completed, with perhaps more swamps being damaged,’’ the report said.

‘‘It should be concluded that the only viable means of preventing damage to [swamps] is to avoid mining beneath them.’’

A Gujarat spokesperson said it would continue with the approvals process.

Last week the state government banned CSG activities in special zones within Sydney water catchment areas, with environmentalists calling for the move to extend to future coal mining operations also.

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