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Dendrobium Mine Extension

The Dendrobium mine extension proposal is to be examined by the NSW Independent Planning Commission soon. The impacts of the mine extension on our water supplies will be severe . OFF encourages members to make submissions.

At OFF meeting (23 Nov 2020 ) we discussed the Dendrobium mine extension proposal which is soon to be examined by the NSW Independent Planning Commission. The impacts of the mine extension on our water supplies will be severe and it is proposed that OFF lodges an objection and encourages all members to do the same.


We have reproduced below a letter from member Sharyn Cullis setting out compelling arguments for objection:

The Dendrobium Mining Project operated by South 32 has already been responsible for very damaging impacts in the drinking water catchments of the Avon and Cordeaux Dams. These are the water supply for Wollongong and the greater Macarthur region of Southwest Sydney. They also act as a ‘backup supply’ via the upper canal link to Prospect Reservoir to the rest of metropolitan Sydney. This was, for example, vital when the bushfires of 2020 ravaged the Warragamba Dam catchment, and fouled the dam with debris, ash and algae.

South 32 have now applied for an extension project to mine for another 28 years in the drinking water catchment. Some of its predicted features and impacts are:

  • Surface subsidence of more than 2 metres that will cause cracks in bedrock as much as 400mm wide, and with fractures that connect from the surface to the mine hudreds of metres below.
  • It will undermine 25 upland swamps, an uncounted number of streams, come to within 300 metres of the edges of the Avon and Cordeaux dams, and to within 1000m of the dam walls, which Water NSW claims is too close.

Water NSW (who manage drinking water supplies) have objected saying the predicted loss of “5.2 megalitres per day” is “unacceptable”. On the other hand, the Department of Planning, Infrastructure and the Environment (DPIE) recommends an approval, based on the economic value of the metallurgical coal (from the Bulli and Wongawilli seams), its relationship with domestic steel production, export royalties and its contribution to the regional economy of Wollongong.

The DPIE does not consider alternatives, and some of those more immediately feasible are limiting mine widths to lessen subsidence, continuing to mine Bulli Seam coal nearby but outside the drinking water catchment, (so eliminating the need to mine Area 5 of the Dendrobium area) and changing the Blue Scope blast furnace coal blend, so that the Wongawilli coal from Area 6 of the Dendrobium area is not required.

The DPIE economic case for the project is based on a consultant’s report (BAEconomics) that says of its own methodology; it “rang key stakeholders“ on 25/3/20, but could do no “face to face meetings” because of the “Covid 19 crisis”, and further, “some of the affected companies have only been prepared to provide limited data.”

If you care about the long term security of our water supplies, and value the water of 2 dams, so pure that it requires little treatment, and therefore can be delivered to us at less cost, and largely as a gift from nature so long as we protect it, please make an objection.

Sharyn Cullis

For more information on the detrimental impact of mining in Sydney’s drinking water catchment See OFF Talk below by Ian Wright

Links to help with submissions:

Protect Our Water Alliance (POWA), of which OFF is a member/supporter, including a comprehensive submission guide for your assistance. Written submissions are due 5pm on Tuesday 15 December 2020. To lodge a submission go to:

The IPC Public Hearing will be held online over 3 days Wed 2 Dec to Fri 4 Dec 2020, commencing at 10.00am daily. we understand you will be able to login to the hearing to watch the proceedings on line.

POWA’s recommendation is that you write a short, ‘unique’ submission which explains why you oppose this project. ‘Unique’ submissions tend to carry more weight with the NSW IPC than ‘form’ submissions. You may choose to include some (or all) of the points from the guide depending on your personal views about this project.

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