In a win for EDO clients, Protect Our Water Alliance (POWA), the Dendrobium coal mine expansion has been refused by NSW’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC).

South32 had sought planning approval to extend the life of its Dendrobium mine, near Wollongong, until the end of 2048 and extract an additional 78 million tonnes of coal which would have resulted in over 250 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the project.

Experts engaged by EDO on behalf of POWA, made submissions to the IPC including that the mine would significantly deplete an already impacted groundwater regime and that groundwater levels will not return to pre-mining levels.

This would have significant consequences for biodiversity, including threatened upland swamps. On behalf of POWA, EDO submitted that the project would have unacceptable impacts on water in Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

The IPC rejected expansion plans for the coal mine finding that the proposed mine risks long-term and irreversible damage to the Greater Sydney and the Illawarra’s drinking water catchment.

The IPC also found that the project’s subsidence effects were likely to be significant, resulting in the degradation of 25 watercourses and swamps in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, detrimental impacts to biodiversity and threatened ecological communities such as upland swamps, and negative impacts on Aboriginal cultural artefacts and values.

The IPC decided that “the loss of good quality for future generations of Greater Sydney and the Illawarra Regions, the loss of biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural heritage all combine to a significant loss that one generation would be passing on to future generations” inconsistent with the principle of intergenerational equity.

The IPC found that the greenhouse gas emissions from the project would be significant, although it refused the project on other grounds.

Deidre Stuart, on behalf of POWA, said: “The POWA community is utterly relieved by this decision – a decision that listens to the science and evidence, and considers the long-term future for the environment, economy and community in our area. This IPC decision respects WaterNSW’s repeatedly expressed concerns and strong opposition to the project.

“We will always need water. But we will not always need coal, not even coking coal for steel manufacture”, Dr Stuart continued. “This IPC decision will also help create impetus for a shift to steelmaking based on renewable energy. There are more jobs in renewable energy than in coal, and there is long-term employment prospects for renewables but not for coal. People want employment security rather than job security. It is time for the NSW and federal governments to wholeheartedly support a transition to renewable energy and green steel in our country.”

EDO Managing Lawyer, Sean Ryan, said: “Our generation has benefited from nature, fresh drinking water and a liveable climate. This decision will help preserve these benefits for future generations, in Greater Sydney and the wider world.”