What monitoring will be done?

Hume Coal has a comprehensive monitoring network for both surface and groundwater systems that has been in place for more than three years. We will continue to monitor this network into the future. Should approval to mine be granted, part of this approval will involve very strict environmental monitoring conditions which will require groundwater sampling and laboratory analysis on a regular basis. Frequency of monitoring will vary across surface and groundwater systems, with water levels requiring 6 or 12 hourly monitoring, while groundwater quality monitoring may be monthly or quarterly. The laboratories undertaking this work will be NATA Accredited (National Association of Testing Authorities Accreditation) and will undertake all work to ISO standards.  Results from this sampling will be reported to the State Government and checked against all relevant water quality parameters, and agreed trigger levels.

Will the underground emplacement of the reject material impact groundwater quality?

The rock and stone returned back underground is essentially the parts of the coal seam and associated rock that we have to mine, but we don’t want or need.  It will be put back where it originated from in the coal seam, typically within hours or days of being mined.  The material being emplaced is the natural rock and stone that was originally there. The process is carefully monitored to ensure that the material being placed back underground remains neutral and benign in the long term.  This may include adding a natural substance like limestone to make sure the material stays neutral.  We have done many short term and long term geochemical tests to ensure that the material being placed underground is benign and will remain so into the future.

What happens to the groundwater once the coal is extracted?

After the coal is extracted, the unused portion of rock and stone material (commonly referred to as ‘reject material’) is replaced underground. Mining will occur in panels, and once a panel is mined it will be sealed up, and will gradually fill with water.  After the panel is completely filled with water, the groundwater levels immediately above and adjacent to this area will immediately begin to recover to pre-mining levels. This recovery will be relatively fast compared to other mining systems and projects.

What are the potential short term effects on water?

Landholders will not lose access to water as a result of the project. Landholder bores are protected by NSW water legislation which requires Hume Coal to ‘make good’ on unacceptable impacts to water users. If there are unacceptable impacts to a landowner’s bore, we will restore their water supply or provide an alternative supply. This could include deepening the bore, lowering the pump or drilling an alternate bore. After a period of time, the groundwater will recover to the pre-mining levels.

Any extraction of water from a groundwater resource (i.e. for irrigation, stock supply etc) will result in temporary lowering of the water level in and around the pumping bore. We see this in our groundwater monitoring bores when nearby landholders pump their bores, and we also see the recovery of water levels once the bore pump is switched off.

Where will Hume Coal source water for the project?

Groundwater and surface water will be intercepted during the mining process within the overall sustainable limit of the Sydney Nepean Groundwater Source. Hume Coal holds licenses to access water, like other landholders with the same legal right. All water used by the mine will come from either surface water dams or groundwater entitlements owned by Hume Coal.

What role does water play in the mining process?

Water is intercepted, used and recycled in a number of areas in and around the mine. For example, water used in the coal handling and preparation plant is recycled, and then used to suppress dust both on the surface and underground. The mine administration area requires a supply of water for use in amenities such as the bath house facility.

Will the region’s water be impacted by the proposed project?

Hume Coal has designed a mine plan that will have no long-term negative impact on water resources. Water within the surface and groundwater resources of the Southern Highlands will remain available and the groundwater system will remain undamaged for future generations.

The project will use water within sustainable limits under licence during mining from both surface and groundwater. There will be no impact on town water supplies.

Will there be any impact on local properties?

Many years of careful planning means we have designed an underground first workings mine that is sensitive to the environment in which we operate. We want to ensure that landowners can continue with their current land uses, uninterrupted.

Will it cause subsidence (land movement) on or around properties in the mine area?

The Hume Coal project has been designed to minimise the potential surface impacts from mine subsidence to levels that are negligible and imperceptible.

The maximum predicted surface settlement is less than 20 millimetres, which means that surface features are highly unlikely to be affected. During mining, there will be ongoing monitoring to check that the mine design objectives are achieved.

What will the mine do to water supplies?

Water has been one of the principal considerations taken into account whilst designing the first workings underground mine. The project will have no effect on town water supplies, and will satisfy the government’s criteria for a “neutral or beneficial effect” on the Sydney Water Catchment’s water quality.

Will I be able to see the mine or any aspect of its operation?

Firstly, it is an underground mine. It is not an open cut and never will be. The project’s design has progressively evolved to reduce its visual impacts. Nonetheless, the development of the mine will result in some changes, especially in the early stages before the native vegetation screens mature. In most instances, distance combined with the area’s landscape and vegetation will minimise the project’s overall visual impacts and avoid any significant adverse visual impacts.

What is the mine about and when is it happening?

The Hume Coal project is an environmentally sensitive low-impact underground coal mining project. It uses an underground first workings only mine design to protect the surface and sub-surface from long-term environmental impacts. It is not a long-wall, open cut or coal seam gas mine.

Construction of the mine will follow the NSW Government’s determination process for state significant developments. If approval is granted, the construction period will take approximately 2 years. This includes driving the decline drifts to seam level. At this stage, Hume Coal is aiming to commence construction in 2020.

The mine will create long-term careers in engineering, geology, environmental science, specialist trades, specialist operators, management and administration.

Why are you mining in this area?

The NSW Government has granted us the licence to explore the area on behalf of the people of NSW. We are now submitting our plans to the Government to extract coal in the exploration area and create a long-term industry for the Southern Highlands. The coal we propose to mine will produce a primary product known as coking or metallurgical coal, which is essential for steel making. This is a valuable commodity that is sought after by steel making companies globally to make everyday products.

Where exactly are you mining?

The mine will be located underground in the Sutton Forest area, roughly 10km outside Moss Vale. The surface infrastructure will be located on the western side of the Hume Highway, on Hume Coal property and the underground parts of the mine will extend from the Illawarra Highway in the south to the Belanglo Forest in the west. The underground mine plan avoids populated areas, such as the Sutton Forest village.