NSW coal fights continue

A MEMBER of BHP Billiton’s Appin mine community consultative committee resigned yesterday, claiming that BHPB Illawarra Coal was trying to censor its members. The coal company denied the accusations, and reinforced its policy of open communication surrounding the effects of longwall mining in the area.

Staff Reporter

The secretary of environmental group Rivers SOS, Caroline Graham, resigned after the company changed a clause in the group's constitution that information should not be used to generate adverse publicity for the company and that such behaviour would be viewed as a breach of trust.

Graham said the changes to the clause were made after she spoke to the media about the cracking, pollution and cliff falls that have occurred to the Cataract River near the Appin 3 mine.

But BHPB Illawarra Coal general manager for sustainable development Wendy Tyrrell said the change was intended to make all committee members, including company representatives, feel that they could speak openly.

“This one in particular is about ensuring that we can continue to operate in an effective way and to communicate frankly within our working group so that the group goals can be achieved," she told ABC Online.

Amidst ongoing opposition and debate over longwall mining in the region, Illawarra Coal president Colin Bloomfield said earlier this month that surface effects of subsidence had been minor, describing suggestions of any impacts to Sydney’s water supply as “scaremongering”.

“I can categorically state that there has been no change in the quality or quantity of water supplied as a result of our mining near the Cataract River,” Bloomfield said.

“In fact, the subsidence effects referred to are extremely minor and would be unlikely to be detected by the untrained eye.

“Illawarra Coal has been operating in the Southern coal fields for close to 80 years and we are committed to environmentally sustainable mining in order to provide our ongoing economic benefits to the region and state.”

Bloomfield said the company’s decision not to longwall mine directly beneath rivers was proof of that commitment.

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