Stop the Russell Vale Coal Mine Expansion on the Illawarra Escarpment
The Illawarra Escarpment and Water Catchment is under threat from plans to expand coal mining. On 16 September 2020 the NSW Department of Planning gave its support to a plan submitted by Wollongong Coal to expand its Russell Vale coal mining operations on the Illawarra Escarpment. The Russell Vale Underground Expansion Project has been referred to the Independent Planning Commission of NSW . Three Commissioners have been appointed who will conduct a public hearing on Monday 19 October 2020 so they can hear directly the views and concerns from community members.
Members of local trail running group, The Seacliff Coasters, first became aware of threats to the escarpment when Wollongong Coal, in anticipation of their mine expansion, erected prominent new signs prohibiting public access along the Lower Escarpment Trail. It became clear that local residents can no longer enjoy a simple run, ride or walk up to Brokers Nose without the threat of prosecution. In addition to extensive environmental issues, expansion of the Russell Vale coal mine raises serious ‘public amenity’ and access concerns that need to be urgently addressed.
The Russell Vale coal mine is located on a beautiful part of the Illawarra Escarpment that has become an increasingly popular site for recreational use. Mountain bikers, trail runners, bushwalkers and naturists from across the Illawarra and beyond regularly use the area for sustainable activities. Importantly, the Illawarra Escarpment forms a vital green corridor, which connects the southern end of the Royal National Park to Macquarie Pass National Park and beyond. Native wildlife is abundant throughout the Escarpment.
Echidnas, wallabies, black cockatoos, reptiles and a variety of other fauna are frequently encountered. There are even reports of koalas.
The Illawarra Escarpment represents world-class bush land with world-class trails and outlooks. As the Illawarra grows and the future demands new and sustainable ways of living and prospering, there is enormous economic potential for promoting recreational activities along the escarpment that celebrate rather than denigrate this unique local environment. The Seacliff Coasters are seeking support from local community members to call on the Commissioners to carefully consider the environmental, economic and social impacts of the proposed coal mine expansion.
The environmental risks are too great, the economic value is highly doubtful, and the community will lose access to unique world-class bushland and trails, which have huge potential to promote both the physical and mental health of local community members, ” says Mat Wall-Smith, Co-founder of the Seacliff Coasters.
We strongly believe there should be no expansion to Wollongong Coal’s Russell Vale operations. The mine facility should be remediated and its heritage celebrated. The bush should be remediated and ‘returned’ to public use. We want access to our Escarpment. We want the right to look after it, to care for it and celebrateit .
How you can help
- Leave a comment on the Independent Planning Commission website: http://bit.ly/RussellValeIPC. This is considered as a formal submission and therefore the best way to express your views (and stop the expansion)/li>
- Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/OurEscarpment
Tim Siegenbeek van Heukelom
The Seacliff Coasters is a local trail running group in the Northern Illawarra. Over 300 ‘Coasters’ head outregularly onto the escarpment to stay fit and reconnect with nature.