Plans by Engie to flood the former Hazelwood coal mine have outraged community and environment groups, who are concerned the operator wants to dodge its responsibility to properly rehabilitate the mine.
Engie is pursuing a slap dash plan to rehabilitate the Hazelwood mine pit and their current proposal to flood the mine, without removing the toxic coal ash, comes with serious risks to the community and environment.
Flooding the mine would take almost two decades and will use more water than is in Sydney Harbour – 638 billion litres – plus another five billion litres every year just to offset the evaporation.
Environment groups are carefully studying the scoping requirements released this week by the Victorian Government for the Environment Effects Statement, to ensure Engie’s assessment of the proposed plans is rigorous.
Two independent expert reports found there are safer, viable alternatives to flooding the mine that must be investigated.
This follows the landmark decision by the Federal government to scrutinise the project’s enormous use of water, including its impacts on threatened and migratory species, and the Ramsar protected Gippsland Lakes.
Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer Chloe Badcock said:
“Engie want to cut corners and leave a toxic mess behind. For the sake of the community and the environment, Engie must stay the course, finish the job, and do the right thing by the Latrobe Valley.
This half-baked rehabilitation plan will drain water resources, create a filthy, toxic pit lake, and choke the water supply to the Gippsland Lakes.
We’re calling for safer alternatives to diverting the Morwell River, including the use of recycled and desalinated water, or considering other rehabilitation options.
Latrobe Valley residents have seen multinational companies cut corners before and the community has been left with the devastating consequences.
Engie has a responsibility to get this right, because the costs of getting it wrong for the local environment and the community are immense.”
Environment Victoria’s Latrobe Valley community organiser Hayley Sestokas said:
“We are pleased that this EES is occurring – that only happened because of a concerted community-led campaign.
There are so many issues that inevitably arise from rehabilitating mines. The local community need certainty that Engie are not going to leave us with their cheapest option.
Local people in the Latrobe Valley have to live with these mine sites and their environmental impacts, while Engie gets to pack up and move on.
When considering Hazelwood we need to be aware that there are two other mines that will need to be rehabilitated – Loy Yang and Yallourn.
Filling the Hazelwood pit alone will require more than double Melbourne’s annual water supply – so the cumulative impacts of all three on local ground and surface water systems will be massive.
The scope of the EES makes it clear that mine operators will need to look for alternative sources of water that don’t drain our waterways and impact the environment and those who depend on a healthy river system.
These could include using recycled water or desalination, or other rehabilitation options that don’t suck such precious resources from the region.”
Friends of Latrobe Water spokesperson Tracey Anton said:
“The Latrobe River system is already under stress and Engie’s plan will drain our water supply for generations.
We can’t let a multinational company threaten farmland, fishing and tourism from the Latrobe Valley right down to the Gippsland Lakes.
Flooding the mine will take more water than Sydney Harbour, but let’s be clear, we won’t get Harbour views or a water playground. Experts say the coal ash pollution will be so bad that the water won’t be safe to touch within 50 years.
All we’re asking for is a proper clean-up plan that protects our community and our river system.”
The coal mine operated from 1949 to 2017 and covers an area larger than Melbourne’s CBD.
Operators also have plans to flood the mine pit at Loy Yang A (1,420 billion litres of water) and the Yallourn mine pit (725 billion litres of water).
Environment groups will hold two webinars to help community members understand the government’s approval process and how they can have their say:
7pm-8pm Thursday 27 April
12.30pm Friday 28 April.
Public submissions are open via Engage Victoria until 10 May 2023.
Read EJA’s handy guide on the Environmental Effects Statement process for the Hazelwood Mine here >>
James Norman, Media and Content Manager