SOUTH32 DENDROBIUM MINE
Dendrobium mine is an underground coal mine located near the beautiful Mt Kembla in the Illawarra Escarpment. Dendrobium is operated by South32, a subsidiary of BHP Billiton.
Longwall mining began in April 2005 and has continued to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Longwall mining is the most destructive form of mining possible. Long gone are the days when hundreds of miners were employed to chip away at a coal seam with hand picks. Now huge machines called shearers rip through a "wall" of coal typically 250 - 400 metres wide. As the shearer removes coal, hydraulic supports hold the roof of the coal seam up. As the shearer moves forward, the roof collapses behind it. This causes subsidence (vertical sinking) and fissures to appear in the ground above.
DENDROBIUM EXPANSION PROPOSAL
Dendrobium currently engages in Longwall mining in Area 3B, with extraction largely complete in Areas 1, 2 and 3A (1). Proposed areas to be mined in Dendrobium's "Plan for the Future" are areas 5 and 6.
Consensus from independent experts is that Dendrobium's measures to protect these special areas of the water catchment are grossly inadequate. The following key findings are from the recent report by the Independent Expert Panel into Mining in the Catchment:
Surface water that should be reaching dams is flowing into longwall mines
Current estimates are that existing mines are leading to the loss of 8 million litres of water each day, equivalent to 2,920 million litres per year, to Sydney’s water supply systems
Longwall mining can lead to drainage of swamps which is likely to be irreversible
There has still been no assessment of the long-term cumulative impacts of mining on water quantity and quality in the Greater Sydney Water Catchment.
(1) "Dendrobium Mine - Plan for the Future: Coal for Steelmaking - Environmental Impact Statement" https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/9696.