Media Releases | 22nd Jun, 2012

Mining stops at Yallourn as flooding continues: Urgent Inquiry needed into Mine failures

Friday, 22 June 2012

Environment Victoria today called for an independent inquiry into ongoing problems at the Yallourn mine which endanger workers and could have long term implications for the health of the Latrobe and Morwell Rivers and Gippsland Lakes.

It is understood that TRUenergy ceased mining this morning  at Yallourn despite promising just a week ago that the power station would be operating at 75% capacity by the end of this week.[1] The company admitted this morning that the power station is operating just one of four generating units at minimal capacity. It has enough coal stockpiled to run at minimum capacity for another seven days.

A section of the Morwell river which was diverted by TRUenergy for the mine a decade ago collapsed on June 5 flooding the Yallourn mine, destroying the mine conveyor belts and shutting most of the power station.

Environment Victoria Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham said today:

The problems at Yallourn appear to be much more serious than the company is letting on. The site seems to be inherently unstable and is currently flooding every time it rains.”

We understand about 700 ML of water has been accumulating on the mine site each day since the company dammed the Morwell River following the collapse of their ill-conceived river diversion. This low quality water is now being pumped into the Latrobe River with unknown impacts on the river and the Gippsland Lakes downstream.”

“Its not good enough for coal miners to turn our rivers on and off so they can keep accessing coal, and then use the rivers as a dump for polluted water. We’re gravely concerned about the potential impacts on the health of the Latrobe River and Gippsland Lakes.”

“Yesterday the Federal Government told Senator Madigan in question time that the Compliance and Enforcement Division for the Environment Protection and Biodviersity Conservation Unit was investigating whether any breaches of Federal legislation had occurred from releases of water to the Ramsar listed Gippsland Lakes. Senator Madigan claimed that Victoria’s EPA is not carrying out any water quality testing but is instead relying on company data.”

Mr Wakeham said the State Government appeared to be asleep at the wheel having failed to announce any inquiry or investigation despite the event taking place over 2 weeks ago.

“This incident is a serious threat to workers, power supply and the environment, yet the State Government appears to be in denial.”

“In 2007 when there was a similar incident at Yallourn there was an investigation by the Mining Warden which found systemic failures at the mine. We need another independent investigation with the findings made public to determine what the cause of the failures was this time and what the likely impacts of the river diversion collapse are.”

“These failures at Yallourn, and problems at Hazelwood mine last year which closed the Morwell bypass for months, should raise alarm bells about the Baillieu Government’s reckless plans to allocate billions of tonnes of coal in the Latrobe Valley later this year. This could see the development of a dozen new coal mines in the region when we can’t seem to manage the 3 currently operating mines. Leaving aside the damaging contribution to greenhouse pollution these brown coal mines make, the social and environmental impacts of mining in the Valley are growing disturbingly.


For comment

Mark Wakeham 0439 700 501

exclusive aerial photos

The collapse of the Morwell River
To view the full gallery of aerial photos taken of the damage for Environment Victoria, head here.