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NSW Opposition reveals water supply at risk f -

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PETER CAVE: Planning experts have defended a decision to allow controversial longwall coal mining
under a dam which helps to supply Sydney's drinking water.

The New South Wales Opposition says it has proof that authorities have major concerns about
allowing the mining underneath Woronora Dam in the city's southern outskirts.

It's obtained documents showing there's a real risk that the dam floor will crack under the strain
of the mining operation.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: It wasn't long ago that Sydneysiders were being urged to conserve every drop of

Now they're being told that the body charged with supplying the city with water is worried that
mining underneath a dam will lead to a potentially huge loss of the precious commodity.

MICHAEL RICHARDSON: I think there's ample evidence in the documents that were provided that both
the Department of Water and Energy and Sydney Catchment Authority have very serious reservations
about what's being done.

SIMON SANTOW: Opposition MP Michael Richardson used freedom of information laws to obtain the
documents which reveal the extent of the concerns at a time when planning authorities and the
Government were considering a proposed extension of longwall coal mining south of Sydney.

MICHAEL RICHARDSON: The original development application has been amended and that they have to
some extent addressed the issues relating to the Waratah Rivulet and they've changed the direction,
they've turned the longwalls underneath Woronora Reservoir around by 90 degrees.

But our information is that it makes no difference whatsoever to the cracking in the bed of the
reservoir. It's almost window dressing.

Mehmet Kizil is a mining expert at the University of Queensland. He says longwall mining is cheaper
and more efficient than open cut mining but it does bring some risks.

MEHMET KIZIL: The way you do longwall mining is you set up a longwall panel. It could be a couple
of hundred metres wide, 200, 300, up to 400 metres wide by a couple of kilometres long.

You set up your mining systems which consists of some shields, steel shields, and a shearer to cut
the coal in the conveyor belt.

It's quick. It's efficient. As you cut the coal, advance, you let the roof to come down and
collapse behind you and that creates a subsidence that goes all the way to the surface. But the
effect of subsidence is reduced as you go up and it depends on how deep you're mining that deposit,
whether it's got clay (phonetic) or not, how deep to mine is how far the mine is from the dam.

It's underneath the dam then you can argue, near the dam you can work out whether it has any impact
at all on the dam.

SIMON SANTOW: The mine was assessed by a planning commission and finally given the tick by the New
South Wales Planning Minister Kristina Keneally.

The department's director of major assessments is David Kitto.

DAVID KITTO: The conclusion of the planning assessment commission was that the mine was unlikely to
have anything but a negligible impact on either the water supply or the water quality in the

SIMON SANTOW: So what assurances can you give the people of Sydney that the dam wall or the floor
of Woronora Dam will not be cracked or impacted in any way by this mining?

DAVID KITTO: Well I guess in terms of the dam wall the mining is going to happen a fairly
substantial distance away from the mine wall so there's almost zero chance of the dam wall being

In terms of the floor of the reservoir there will be some minor cracking - and I stress very minor
cracking. All the scientific assessment says that there will be no direct connection between the
reservoir and the mine and no, nothing other than negligible leakage.

If in the unlikely event any impact does occur to the supply then one, the company would be in
non-compliance, and two, it would have to either change its mine plan to ensure compliance and if
that's not possible then it wouldn't be allowed to mine any more.

SIMON SANTOW: But presumably you don't want it to get to that situation. You don't want to be
having to repair something.

DAVID KITTO: No, absolutely not...

SIMON SANTOW: So that's the argument, the argument from green groups is you ought not to allow it
to possibly happen. There ought to be no risk.

DAVID KITTO: Well I guess um... if there was... I mean what we're saying now is that the risk if so
low that it's acceptable.

SIMON SANTOW: Peabody Energy Australia is the company behind the proposed mine. Its spokeswoman is
Jennifer Morgans.

JENNIFER MORGANS: My understanding is that the dam committee, and rightly so, has a low tolerance
of risk and Metropolitan Mine is confident it can satisfy all of these conditions to attain the
necessary approvals and minimise the risks.

SIMON SANTOW: But you can't give an unequivocal assurance to our listeners that the dam floor won't
have cracks in it as a result of your mining?

JENNIFER MORGANS: Well Simon, there has been a significant body of scientific work into mining
under reservoirs dating back to the 1970s and Metropolitan have used this body work to design the
mine plan and around the reservoir to meet all of the strict conditions.

PETER CAVE: Jennifer Morgans from the mining company Peabody Energy Australia, ending that report
from Simon Santow.