Clarence Colliery subject to legally binding EPA license

TESTING THE WATERS: Dr Ian Wright's study examined the impact of the Clarence Colliery on the Wollangambe River. Picture: SUPPLIED
TESTING THE WATERS: Dr Ian Wright's study examined the impact of the Clarence Colliery on the Wollangambe River. Picture: SUPPLIED

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has announced it will impose a legally binding Pollution Reduction Program on the Clarence Colliery less than a month after Western Sydney University published a damning report on the mine’s impact on the Wollangambe River. 

Katie Bressil, a senior spokesperson for Centennial Coal which owns the Clarence Colliery, said the company welcomed the changes to its EPA license, including reductions in metal concentration for water discharged to the river.

“These changes are a result of the five year review of the Clarence Environmental Protection Licence,” Ms Bressil said.

“This is a routine process for EPA licenses. The review opened a dialogue with stakeholders and agencies to come to an outcome that will be beneficial for the environment.”

The Pollution Reduction Program sets stringent new limits for Clarence Colliery on 13 metals, including zinc and nickel. 

In February, Dr Ian Wright of the Western Sydney University published a report examining the mine’s discharge in protected waterways of the Blue Mountains and Wollemi National Parks.

The study found that discharge into the Wollangambe River had greatly impacted the river’s health. Zinc and nickel concentration in the Wollangambe were at levels known to be harmful to aquatic life.

“The mine's waste discharge has strongly modified the river's ionic composition, and is causing major impairment of the aquatic ecosystem.”

At the time of the report’s publication, Centennial Coal had been performing monthly water quality tests for five years. 

“We report environmental data on a monthly a basis to the EPA, how and where we test the water would have been imposed by our former license,” Ms Bressil said.

In May 2016, the EPA commenced a prosecution in the Land and Environment Court against Clarence Colliery, for a separate occurrence, alleging a Tier 1 offence relating to the discharge of coal fines from the mine in 2015. The case is next due in court from May 8-10, 2017.