The study, undertaken by Hydrocology Consulting for the agricultural-linked Lock the Gate Alliance, blames the coal mining industry for taking up 23% of Hunter Regulated River Water Sharing Plan resources including 55% of available high security water.
“Miners have effectively driven up the price of water in the Valley, making it the most expensive water in NSW with water access licences consistently traded at over $2000 per megalitre,” LTGA said.
The study also criticised the coal mining industry for impacting groundwater supplies, creating salinity, “toxic mine discharge” and creating mine voids.
“Research has already found that Hunter mine voids are reducing the base flow of the Hunter River,” HC said in its report.
“Voids in the Hunter Valley alluvium, in particular, will continue to reduce base flow for centuries, placing even greater pressure on water storages to satisfy increasing water demands.”
The NSWMC said it was important to put this latest set of claims by the activist group in context.
“Mining in NSW only accounts for 1.5% of the state’s water use, compared with 49.2% used by agriculture, according to the ABS,” the industry group said.
“And mining only accounts for 0.1% of the state’s land use compared with 76% by agriculture, according to the Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program.
“Our miners make a significant economic contribution to the Hunter Valley, so it should come as no surprise that our mines hold a reasonable share of the region’s water entitlements for mining operations. The report states the majority of water rights – 77% – are held by other water users.”
The group said mines were subjected to the same restrictions and controls as other water users were.
“The majority of the water used at mines is lower quality water not suitable for other uses such as agriculture. And mines recycle and reuse water onsite, so they’re not competing for higher quality water.
“The Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme has been successfully operating in the region for more than a decade. The current review of the scheme has found that it has been successful in reducing salinity levels and that water discharges from mines and power stations only represent 10% of the entire salt load of the Hunter River.”
The industry group also hinted there was a Greenpeace link to the consultancy behind the report.
“If this report was indeed authored by a former Greenpeace campaigner then further questions should be asked about its findings and recommendations,” NSWMC said.
“Some of the author’s findings indicate they may be unfamiliar with mining and water regulation.”