Posts Tagged ‘Baal Bone Colliery’

Gardens of Stone at risk from Coal Mining

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Capetree Valley looking toward Pentoney’s Crown,
Gardens of Stone NP
Blue Mountains region, New South Wales, Australia
© Photo by Henry Gold, wilderness photographer
 

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Gardens of Stone is a national park in the Australian state of New South Wales, 125 km northwest of Sydney. At 15,010 ha it is part of the Greater Blue Mountains Area World Heritage Site. [Wikipedia]

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Yet much larger and similarly high conservation areas featuring pagodas of the Gardens of Stone and other incredibly rare natural landscapes and ecosystems lie adjacent to this national park. Similar rugged natural areas adjoining the Gardens of Stone National Park span some additional 40,000 hectares, featuring rare and magnificent sandstone escarpments, ancient natural pagodas and plateau country of the north western Blue Mountains – a natural part of the declared Greater Blue Mountains World heritage area park system.

Read below to learn more about proposed protection ‘Stage Two’ …

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The Gardens of Stone Park Proposal Stage Two

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Joint Media Release 28 November, 2005 by Colong Foundation for Wilderness, Blue Mountains Conservation Society and the Colo Committee:

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‘Today the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, the Blue Mountains Conservation Society and the Colo Committee launched a new proposal to protect 40,000 hectares. The proposal, centred on the township of Lithgow, is called the Gardens of Stone.

“The Gardens of Stone area is scenically, environmentally and historically unparalleled. Its current low level of protection shows a scandalous disregard of this magnificent heritage. The Gardens of Stone proposal is an innovative approach that will ensure better protection of these unparalleled areas and greatly enhance tourism in the western Blue Mountains-Lithgow region”, said Dr Brian Marshal, President of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society.

“’This area for too long has been taken for granted, yet is truly a national gem. Its geology is dramatic and spectacular, its biodiverisity is fascinatingly diverse, and its cultural history is extensive. It is time at last for the overlooked to be valued and acknowledged. This is a fantastic area that truly deserves reserve status!”, said Haydn Washington, Secretary of the Colo Committee.

“The Gardens of Stone is a place worth saving that has great potential for quiet, family-based recreation. The proposed system of new Gardens of Stone parks will greatly enhance tourism opportunities in the central and western Blue Mountains around Lithgow,” said Keith Muir, director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

The Gardens of Stone has iconic heritage of national significance. The park proposal aims to protect and manage:

  • the first three rugged mountain passes west to the interior of Australia;
  • the outstanding Aboriginal cultural sites on and around Newnes Plateau;
  • the wonderful oil shale mining ruins on spectacular Airly Mesa;
  • some of the highest plant diversity in the Blue Mountains; and
  • some of the most beautiful and intricate sandstone formations in Australia.

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“The plant, animal and Aboriginal heritage of the proposal reflect the landscape’s diversity. The proposal’s many rare plants, unique snowgrass-snowgum woodlands, shrub swamps and heathlands are not protected elsewhere, said Mr Washington.

“The Gardens of Stone is a geological wonderland of coloured escarpments, narrow canyons, rock arches, cave overhangs, lonely sandstone peninsulas and remnant forested sand dunes from the last ice age”, Dr Marshall said.

Mr Muir believes that “Heritage-based tourism could draw Lithgow toward a more environmentally sustainable future”.

“The proposal provides an integrated plan of action to protect, manage and interpret the area but recognises the realities of existing coalmining operations”, he added.

[Source: http://www.colongwilderness.org.au/media_releases/media_archive05.htm#MR05112800]
 
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The following article is that by Ian Brown of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness which may be located under the heading ‘Seeing the Gardens by Ian Brown.’ It is based upon a report on the recreational and tourism potential of the Gardens of Stone Stage 2 park proposal, jointly commissioned by the Blue Mountains Conservation Society and the Colong Foundation.)
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‘The Gardens of Stone Park Proposal Stage Two (GoS2) was launched by the Colong Foundation in 2005. It covers an area of 40 000 hectares of sandstone escarpment and plateau in the western Blue Mountains , on the western side of the existing Greater Blue Mountains World heritage area park system. The proposal takes in parts of the upper Capertee Valley , Coxs River headwaters, Turon River headwaters, Newnes Plateau and Blue Mountains western escarpment.

The objective of the GoS2 proposal is to achieve better management and protection of this area’s many important natural and cultural values. The GoS2 park system is proposed to be a mixture of state conservation area (SCA) and national park tenure. SCA status allows underground coal mining to continue.

The GoS2 area’s outstanding conservation values have been well documented in the Colong Foundation’s The Gardens of Stone Park Proposal Stage Two (October 2005). There is no doubt that the area’s scenery and heritage can also offer a diverse range of low impact recreational activities attracting significant visitor numbers, thus expanding the local tourism industry. One purpose of the current study was to show that GoS2 can deliver significant economic benefits to local communities.
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An under-valued landscape

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‘GoS2 offers the part of the Gardens of Stone landscape that is easily accessed and enjoyed by the general public. The nearby parks offer similar features and experiences, but they tend to be accessible to visitors with bush skills due to more rugged topography. GoS2, which is largely of more subdued terrain, brings the unique landscape of the Gardens of Stone to the majority of people.

 

This article will focus on the northern sectors that make up most of the proposal and which have the greatest potential for improved conservation and recreation management. These include the Airly-Genowlan mesas and Ben Bullen, Wolgan and Newnes State Forests. The other main sector, the western escarpment Crown reserves extending from Hassans Walls at Lithgow to Medlow Bath, is already well developed for recreation with increasingly effective management by local councils.

But the existing management regime over Airly-Genowlan and the state forests can best be characterised as lassez faire in relation to recreation and relatively passive in relation to conservation. The dominant land uses of coal mining and forestry have led to a devaluation of the important natural and cultural heritage values of the area in the public mind. Off-road vehicle activity, particularly trail bike riding, has been allowed by neglect to become the dominant recreation, even though most of it is illegal (unregistered vehicles, unlicensed riders and creating new tracks). This has further alienated less damaging activities such as walking, which mainly takes place on the fringes of the plateaus.

The GoS2 area has not yet been presented or promoted to the public as a great place to enjoy a remarkable landscape. Hence, the strong potential of the GoS2 area for low-impact, nature-based recreation and tourism has been under recognised and under-utilised.”
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A better future

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‘This can be changed by implementing the GoS2 reserve proposal and advancing a recreation and tourism plan for the area. With the right presentation and promotion, environmentally benign recreational use of GoS2 can be expanded dramatically.The natural and cultural attractions are many, varied, widespread across the area and highly appealing. Some features (e.g. Lost City , Carne Creek gorge, new Hartley mining heritage, Wolgan Valley Rail Trail) have the potential to become iconic attractions. A number of easy wildlife viewing opportunities exist and several Aboriginal heritage experiences are available. 

This alternative vision presents an existing network of touring routes for motor vehicles and bicycles, accessing a range of potential camping areas, bushwalks, lookouts and cultural and wildlife experiences. Most of the proposed places of interest can be linked into a ‘Gardens of Stone Grand Tour’ which could be taken over one to three days by 4WD vehicle or mountain bike.

Although providing for these recreational activities will have some localised impacts, a number of already-disturbed sites can be utilised. Furthermore, the likely impacts are minor when compared to the existing and future impacts of the current recreational regime.

The current controversy over government plans to expand private tourism development within national parks has been taken into account, and the GoS2 plan seeks to demonstrate how low-key, low impact visitor facilities can provide the backbone of local tourism without damaging the parks with accommodation and similar developments.

The proposed network of visitor experiences would provide the basis of a whole new nature-based marketing initiative for the western Blue Mountains, promoting the Gardens of Stone as the very distinctive other side of the Blue Mountains. Just two hours from Sydney and with all the services any visitor could need in adjacent towns, GoS2 could become an iconic venue for campers, bushwalkers, tourers, cyclists and nature and heritage enthusiasts. The suite of opportunities creates a sound basis for commercial tourism enterprises such as guided tours and local off-park accommodation.

Such a future could realise significant economic opportunities through visitor expenditure, and for both specialised services (tours, eco-accommodation) and more general commercial activity in the surrounding area.”
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Economic benefits

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Estimating tourism to protected areas and resultant economic benefits can be difficult. Based on comparable statistics and studies from NSW, Queensland and Victoria, a conservative upper estimate for tourism to a GoS2 park with the proposed facilities is 50,000 visitors a year. This level of tourism activity has been estimated to produce substantial net benefits to the community in the order of $28M to $38M, depending on the discount rate used. These net benefits may represent a minimum value since management costs savings to Forests NSW have not been able to be included and the levels of timber production and royalties assumed may be conservatively high.The regional economic benefit produced by 50,000 visitors to GoS2 is estimated as a direct spend of around $3M to $4M. Over and above this would be expenditure on park management, and the expansion of commercial tour activities and the establishment of new visitor accommodation in nearby areas which is likely to follow. 

The case for protecting the GoS2 lands for both conservation and direct community benefit is strong. It is now up to the NSW Government to do it.’

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[Source: http://www.colongwilderness.org.au/features.htm]
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But the Gardens of Stone are being destroyed by Centennial Coal

 

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The magnificent rugged and rare geomorphology and high plateau ecosystems of the Bkue Mountains region is under serious irreverible threat of destruction by coal mining. The natural heritage values of the Gardens of Stone are being impacted by coal mining, causing bedrock subsidence, longwall mining is cracking the creekbeds and mine effluent pumping are destroying the natural groundwater acquifers. The rare geodiversity is being destroyed as Centennial Coal’s mining at Angus Place Colliery and Baal Bone Colliery cause cliff falls.

Aboriginal heritage rock art is being fractured. Creeks, rivers and upland swamps such as East Wolgan Swamp are being polluted by heavy metals from Centennial Coal’s mines. The mining is causing surface subsidence, stream flows are disappearing in Kangaroo Creek and the Wolgan River

A media release by the Colong Foundation for Wilderness 27 April 2010, highlighted current threats posed by Coal Mining:

 
 

The Gardens of Stone – a story to break the hardest heart

‘Imagine, New South Wales has its very own Bungle Bungle Range just 2½ hours from Sydney on the western edge of the Blue Mountains. It is a place of superlative scenery and tremendous botanical diversity. Today the Colong Foundation reveals that this little known wonderland called the Gardens of Stone may soon be spoiled if high impact coal mining is not curbed..“The Colong Foundation’s recent report (The impact of coal mining on the Gardens of Stone) documents how the coal industry’s environmental record is being etched and caved onto the Gardens of Stone landscape,” said Keith Muir Director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“Coal mining has:

  • Caused several hundred cliff collapses in the most beautiful part of the Blue Mountains;
  • Monitored these cliffs falls for 30 years, rather than acted to reduce the damage;
  • Turned (nationally endangered) swamps to dust by cracking near-surface aquifers;
  • Poisoned (nationally endangered) swamps with eco-toxic mine effluent;
  • Turned the Wolgan River red;
  • Claimed an environmental award for providing dirty, saline mine effluent to a power plant that shortly afterwards required a major repairs to its condensers costing tens of millions of dollars;
  • Blighted the landscape with a network of roads, pipes, survey lines and power lines;
  • Polluted drinking water supplies for Lithgow with nickel.
.The list goes on”, Mr Muir said.“In its monitoring reports to government the coal industry regularly understate the damage caused,” he said. “Mine operations do not work minimise environmental damage and have been largely unresponsive to environmental concerns”, he added.

“Crevasses, cliff falls and rock fractures are spoiling the sandstone beauty of the Gardens of Stone. Yet despite the intense study of mine subsidence for 30 years, the natural geomorphological processes that control cliff falls are not understood”, said Mr Muir.

“The Gardens of Stone in NSW is as spectacular as the Bungle Bungle Ranges, with a far greater floristic diversity. It must not be needlessly degraded by coal mining, as it can be preserved for everyone to enjoy,” Mr Muir said.

The damage can be curbed by reducing mining intensity. Taking such action would actually employ more miners and save this outstanding environment. One colliery has reduced its mining intensity, and a new one is about to start that will be far less damaging than previous operations. The State and Federal Governments should step in to protect from further damage the nationally endangered shrub swamps, the streams, cliffs and the sandstone pinnacles called pagodas that make up this natural wonderland”, Mr Muir said.

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New mining prospect for Capertee

[Article from the local newspaper, The Lithgow Mercury, 20080705]

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‘The Capertee community could benefit from a significant economic boost in the near future, including the direct creation of 80 jobs, if Centennial Coal’s Airly Project proceeds. Airly is an 80 million tonne coal resource located approximately 3 km north east of the Capertee township and is a project acquired by Centennial Coal in 1997 with an existing planning consent (originally granted in 1993).

There had been previous activity on the site including underground mining to obtain a bulk sample and verify mining conditions. Further work required to establish a trial mine commenced in April 1998. A Trial Mine Phase commenced in December 1998 when about 70,000 tonnes of coal was extracted over a 12 month period. An access road and other surface works were also completed.

“Lately, locals will have noticed an increase in traffic movement around Airly as a variety of visitors to the site complete studies, update data and review planning and engineering options for the site,” Centennial’s General Manager: Projects, Richard Tacon said.

“The proposed mine design would include the construction of a rail loading facility to ensure all coal from the site can be transported by rail.

“We anticipate the internal assessment process will be finalised over the next few months placing Centennial in a position to formalise a decision to proceed with the project,” Mr Tacon said.

“If Centennial does decide to proceed with this project, we will inform the community, place an utmost priority on minimising environmental impacts and strictly comply with the appropriate planning laws.”

[Source: http://www.lithgowmercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/new-mining-prospect-for-capertee/804919.aspx ]
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Wolgan Road Project

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On Centennial Coal’s website, under ‘Operations’ there is mention of a proposed Wolgan Road Project to be located within the Angus Place Colliery Lease. The project area is approximately 14km northwest of Lithgow, approximately 5km to the east of Mount Piper Power Station and 4km north of Wallerawang Power Station.

 
The area contains a small shallow coal resource between the underground workings of Wallerawang and Angus Place, with an estimated mine reserve of approximately 4.9 million tonnes, recoverable by open cut methods. Further detailed work including geotechnical investigations, environmental management assessment, community consultation and detailed mine planning would need to be completed before the requisite approvals could be sought.
 
[Source: http://www.centennialcoal.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=54, accessed 20110126]
 
Sounds inoccuous enough, except that the Angus Place Colliery Lease is not ‘north west‘, but north of Lithgow. This places it within the Wolgan River catchment in sensitive escarpment country within the proposed Gardens of Stone NP Stage Two.
 
 
Map from the 2008 NSW Coal Industry Profile.
 
 
 
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Centennial Coal’s Environmental Claims

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Centennial Coal on its website under the heading of ‘Environmental Management‘ claims that Centennial’s Directors and Management are:


“committed to continual improvement in environmental and community management and performance.”
Centennial recognises the importance of effectively managing the environmental impacts associated with each mine and, over the years, has developed an Environmental Policy that commits the Company to continual improvement in its environmental management and performance.
 
‘Impact of Coal Mining on the Gardens of Stone’
©2010 Colong Foundation for Wilderness
 
 

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CENTENNIAL COAL’S VISION

“To conduct our business in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner, that is compatible with the expectations of our Shareholders, government, employees and the community.”
 
‘Impact of Coal Mining on the Gardens of Stone’
©2010 Colong Foundation for Wilderness
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CENTENNIAL COAL’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT

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1. Appropriate decisions are made

 

2. Risk management strategies are implemented based on clear science and valid data

3. Stakeholders are identified and respected

4. Environmental impacts are recognised and minimised

5. Legal obligations are known and respected

6. Environmental management is integrated into our business

7. Environmental performance is continually improved

8. Natural resources are used efficiently

9. Performance is assessed and reported

 
‘Impact of Coal Mining on the Gardens of Stone’
©2010 Colong Foundation for Wilderness
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The Centennial Environmental Vision and logo designed to assist in raising the awareness and visibility of the group’s environmental effort, seeks to deliver two messages:

  • Firstly, that the environment matters to Centennial, ie it is a fundamental part of Centennial’s business; and
  • Secondly, environmental matters, or elements of the biophysical environment (air, plants and animals, ground/soil and water) that sustain society can be affected by Centennial’s activities if not appropriately managed
 

‘In a “branding” sense, the motto ” environment matters” is designed to be a distinctive reminder of Centennial’s aims and commitments.’

 
[Source: http://www.centennialcoal.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4:environmental-management&catid=10:who-we-are&Itemid=12]


Such is this company’s calculated greenwashing
to the extent of strategic misinformation,
so long as it exploits,
scams impunity from its heavy metal contamination,
inflicts irreversible bedrock subsidence….
Somehow justified by
‘temporary jobs, temporary jobs, temporary jobs’.
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…an ethical investment?
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Further Reading:

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[1] Gardens Of Stone Stage 2 Proposal, ^http://bluemountains.org.au/gos2.shtml

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[2] The Impact of Coal Mining on the Gardens of Stone [read full publication],

http://www.colongfoundation.org.au
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[3] Gardens of Stone National Park – Draft Plan of Management [read full publication]

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/PoMDraftGardensOfStoneNP.pdf

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[end of article]
 

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