The North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) says “north coast local governments need to be proactive and precautionary in identifying high conservation lands and water supply catchments that should be off-limits to mining”.
“Mining exploration on the Dorrigo Plateau and in the Coffs-Clarence water catchments could have serious impacts on regional water supplies,” NCEC president Jim Morrison said in a media release.
“That means [on] everyone downstream of the mines, from towns, villages and farms to local industries, particularly those that depend on clean water like agriculture, horticulture, grazing and fisheries.”
NCEC committee member John Edwards, who runs the Clarence Environment Centre (CEC), has written to Clarence Valley Council (CVC) raising his centre’s and the NCEC’s views regarding the potential threat mining poses “to the region’s drinking water quality and / or supply”.
In his letter to CVC and each of its councillors, Mr Edwards said that the “latest minerals exploration licence application by Christopher Wilson Investments has brought into focus … minerals exploration that has been on-going for the past decade, at least, on the Dorrigo Plateau”.
“The western extent of [exploration licence 6060],” Mr Edwards writes, lies directly between the Nymboida and Little Nymboida Rivers, the two waterways that deliver all drinking water to the entire region.”
Mr Edwards has asked CVC if it “proposes to be more proactive on this issue, in the same way it has acted to oppose river diversion”.
At CVC’s September meeting, councillors unanimously endorsed CVC’s submission to the NSW Government’s Inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW, reiterating its opposition (for the fifth time since establishing its policy in 2006) to any diversion of the Clarence River.
“We acknowledge that these [exploratory and/or mining leases and applications] are ultimately a state government responsibility, and in the past our approaches to that body has always been answered by the ‘it’s only exploration, just drilling a hole in the ground, there’s no environmental threat at all’ argument,” he writes.
“However, while this may be true, if a viable mineral resource was found, the company in question would have an expectation to be allowed to extract that resource.
“Frankly, it would not be fair, having allowed the exploration to take place, potentially at the cost of millions of dollars, for the government to reject that mining application.”
Mr Edwards and the two volunteer-manned groups he represents believe “mining leases need to be re-mapped across the whole of Australia, to identify sensitive areas, drinking water catchments, heritage sites and places of environmental and social significance … and declare them off-limits.”
He asks CVC to “inform us as to council’s policy, if any, in regard to these potential threats”.
“Could the issue be raised within council with a view to eliminating those threats?” he writes.
Mr Edwards said he was yet to receive a reply from CVC, however, when the Independent spoke with him CVC’s 10-day letter turnaround policy was still in play.
The NCEC has also contacted Coffs Harbour Council, which shares its water supply with Clarence Valley Council.
The Shannon Creek Dam “sources water from the Nymboida river, near Nymboida,” CVC’s website states, “[and] is designed to be used during dry periods to provide water supply security and reduce the impact of water extraction from the Orara and Nymboida rivers during low flows.”