"WHAT else is out there?", Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper asked yesterday after witnessing the collapse of another section of cliff face at a heavily damaged section of Sugarloaf State Conservation Area.
Boulders fell from a cliff just a few hundred metres west of where Mr Piper stood on a once-natural creek bed, annihilated by concrete during a ‘‘catastrophic remediation attempt’’ by contractors employed by coal giant Glencore Xstrata.
The Newcastle Herald has revealed wide-scale mine subsidence damage at Sugarloaf leaving behind cracks and chasms up to 120metres long and 17metres wide, but there may be more, Mr Piper said.
‘‘The question is, how much more is going to occur,’’ he said.
‘‘And how can they have miscalculated the potential impacts on this area to such a large degree in the original mine plan.
‘‘It really just does bring into question the management of subsidence in this area.
‘‘What else is out there? I think it is just by chance that this came to anyone’s attention, it certainly didn’t come to the local members’ attention until it was in the newspaper.’’
Pressure on the state government to properly address the issue is mounting.
The Total Environment Centre yesterday called for a parliamentary inquiry into the destruction at Sugarloaf, and into the damaging impacts of longwall mining.
Executive director Jeff Angel said the inquiry must investigate mining company ability to predict damage, and their handling of ‘‘so-called remediation’’.
“The damage inflicted by Xstrata upon Sugarloaf State Conservation Area and the spectacular failure of their attempts to remediate is just the tip of a big concrete iceberg,” Mr Angel said.
“We will be providing suggested terms of reference to MPs.”
Representatives from the Office of Environment and Heritage and West Wallsend Colliery met with senior officials from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, NSW Trade and Investment and the Environment Protection Authority at the National Parks and Wildlife Service Newcastle area office yesterday to ‘‘discuss the remediation plan for the grout leak and the mine subsidence’’.
‘‘The proposed outcome of the meeting will be a clear outline of timeframes and roles and responsibilities for remediation works,’’ a statement issued on Thursday said.
The delegation was also scheduled to make an on-site inspection.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, who commented on the issue for the first time yesterday, said the Office of Environment and Heritage was taking action, having issued a remediation order earlier this week.
He dismissed the fact that the order came almost three months after the creek was grouted and on the day the Herald revealed the mine subsidence damage in the reserve.
‘‘It may well be that there’s a coincidence of the reporting of these matters with the action occurring but that in no way suggests that one’s followed the other,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.
‘‘These issue arise from time to time. Activities are undertaken by mining companies with licence conditions imposed upon them. When certain things happen they’re required to repair, whether through landfill or through what might loosely be called grout, these problems.
‘‘Clearly there is a big issue here about whether that remediation has been up to standard. I don’t think anyone believes it’s been to standard and that’s why earlier this week the Office of Environment and Heritage took action to issue a remediation notice.’’