Lake auger mine augurs ill

Lake Macquarie, one of Australia’s east coast watery treasures, has lived with coal mining and assorted industries for 200 years.

It endured toxic emissions from the “sulphide Works” for most of last century, the small mining community of Boolaroo absorbing most of its hazardous surplus that either seeped into Cockle Creek or drifted airborne over that unfortunate village.

For the last 50 years the Lake has been home to coal-fired power stations, first at Wangi, then Eraring.

And forever it was peppered with mine shafts and threaded by railways carting the black booty to Newcastle for local use or sea export. These mines and lines in particular it tolerated, not because of boreholes’ tiny footprint, but the scattered townships fringing the Lake shire comprised, of course, coal miners’ families.

Now the worst version of coal extraction seeks to set up shop west of the lake, just south of Newstan Colliery at Blackalls Park.

This is the most central location possible to aggravate bemused residents of this recreational and lifestyle collective clustered around the 174 km shoreline.

“Bemused” because the millennial lake population has now only tenuous links to the coal industry. Residents relaxing on the western shore of this magnificent lake rub shoulders with the Hunter region’s wealthier citizens. Marmong, Bolton, Coal and Fishing Points are among the most exclusive locales one might choose to live.

If for no other reason, Centennial Coal, the proposer of Olstan open cut ‘auger’ coal mine, may have a fight on its hands.

CENTENNIAL’S PROPOSAL

Olstan, the project’s name, whose expected mine life is 3 years, makes innocuous reading to us mining neophytes.

Centennial Coal’s Olstan community project newsletter explains their intent and method lucidly, downloadable from project pages of their website.

Images of the Auger machine and aerial view of Olstan are courtesy of Centennial Coal.

Olstan is an open cut underground mine whose footprint appears not much greater than Newstan’s current stain.

Centennial intends to cut 4km of access pits 40 meters wide from which “auger” machines will drill horizontally into the coal seam.

Augers you already know as wood drills, post-hole diggers, or grain pumps, that resemble large metal corkscrews. Oh, and mining buffs will tell you the target seams are the Great Northern and Fassifern deposits.

After processing coal in a mobile crushing plant at Newstan, the coal will fire “local” power stations.

Centennial’s air quality and greenhouse gas assessments focus chiefly on dust.

Dust comes from land clearing, quarrying the massive trenches, coal drilling and extraction, coal crushing, stockpiles of loose material, and constant motion of a large number of heavy vehicles and mobile machinery. Dust ‘modelling’ closely studies total suspended particulates (TSP), dust deposition, and fine dust particles.

Dust is dust, and the only way to stop it being dusty is keep things wet, and fill holes when finished.

However, dusts aint dusts, Sol. Specifically, risks from finer dust particles have alarmed astute lakeside residents and provoked a media statement – with comprehensive analysis and citations – presented verbatim, below.

78,000 PEOPLE IN LAKE MACQUARIE AT RISK FROM MINE DUST

A community group has spoken out about the risk posed by dust from an open cut auger mine proposed by the Centennial Coal Company.

According to Peter Morris, President of the United Residents Group for the Environment of Lake Macquarie, (URGE) there are 78,000 people living within 10km of the Blackalls Park site.

URGE has compiled census data showing how many people would be affected in various suburbs.

The affected population would include nearly all of western Lake Macquarie and stretches around the north of the lake as far as Belmont,” Mr Morris said.

This is the first time a mine like this has ever been proposed near so many people.”

According to Mr Morris, the affected population would include 6,000 at Eleebana, 8,000 at Warners Bay and Lakelands, 6,000 at Valentine and nearly 4,000 at Belmont.”

There would also be people affected at West Wallsend, Cameron Park, Edgeworth, Speers Point, Boolaroo, Argenton, Glendale, Macquarie Hills, Mount Hutton, Floraville, and Croudace Bay.

The dangerous mine dust is called Particulate Matter, or PM, and classified according to its size. The larger particles are called PM10 and it would take seven of these to equal the thickness of a human hair. The greatest risk comes from the smaller PM2.5, which is small enough to be drawn deep into the lungs.

It leads to increased respiratory symptoms, aggravation of asthma and premature death. The effects are worst on infants, children, adolescents and the elderly, particularly those with respiratory problems, heart conditions or diabetes.

According to Mr Morris, studies have found that fine particle pollution causes premature deaths by making lungs more vulnerable to infection.

“Recent studies have found that for longer-term exposure there is a direct relationship between levels of PM2.5 pollution and death rates,” said Mr Morris.

It has also been found that daily mortality rates are linked to daily PM2.5 levels. It has even been found that PM pollution directly contributes to cot deaths.”

A review of national air quality guidelines has been told that there is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5

The new mine would add to ambient levels of PM2.5 in the air, so it follows that there will be an increased risk of illness and death.

Removal of topsoil and overburden are the two greatest sources of dust from open cut mining operations. PM is easily entrained when wind speeds reach 19km/hr. over bare ground and stockpiles.

Finer particles remain suspended for longer,” said Mr Morris. “This is why so many suburbs would be at risk, even across the lake from the mine.”

The science behind dust fallout can be complex, but recent research in the United States shows that a simple linear model of dust dispersion based on wind direction is valid when dust is from a single source and travels over flat terrain.

This is why the risk extends to Warners Bay and beyond,” Mr Morris said.

With what is known about dispersal of PM2.5, everyone within 10km should be concerned,” said Mr Morris.

URGE and other groups have joined forces to oppose the mine.

There will be a meeting at the Public School in Charles St Blackalls Park, 6:30pm for a 7:00 start, on 14 May 2009.

The public meeting is being called by:

  • SCAM – Southlake Communities Against the Mine
  • NOCMFA – No Open Cut Mine For Awaba
  • URGE – United Residents Group for the Environment of Lake Macquarie.
INFORMATION ON DISPERSION AND EFFECTS OF PARTICULATE MATTER (pm)

Health Impacts of PM

* National Pollution Inventory at the Dept. of Environment – Particulate matter

PM causes increased respiratory symptoms, aggravation of asthma and premature deaths. The risks are highest for sensitive groups such as the elderly and children. Smaller particles may be associated with the most adverse affects because they can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs.

* NSW Department of Health – Mine dust

PM2.5, which is smaller, is of greater concern than remainder of PM10.

PM will have greater effects on infants, children, adolescents and the elderly, particularly those with respiratory problems, heart conditions or diabetes.

* Lead Education and Abatement Design Group – Fine Particulates Air Pollution

  • Fine particle pollution causes premature deaths by making lungs more vulnerable to infection.
  • Tests on rats have showed that even short term exposure can cause death without other symptoms.
  • Two studies have shown that for longer-term exposure there is a direct relationship between levels of PM2.5 pollution and death rates.
  • Recent research shows that daily mortality rates are linked to daily PM2.5 levels.
  • PM pollution directly contributes to cot deaths.

The Risks of PM

* Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Hidden Cost of Electricity

  • p19 PM is responsible for the highest portion of health costs associated with air pollution.
  • pp. 48-9 According to the World Health Association PM2.5 is more damaging than the remainder of PM10

* Environment Protection and Heritage Council (ANZ) – Ambient air quality

pp. 55,57 There is no safe level for exposure to PM2.5

* CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research – Properties of Australian fine particles

p 89 It is recommended that air quality measurements should be based on PM2.5 concentrations rather than PM10

How PM Would be Generated and Dispersed from Centennial’s Auger Mine

* Australian Network of Environmental Defenders Offices Inc. (ANEDO) – Air quality, dust monitoring

Removal of topsoil and overburden are the two greatest sources of dust from open cut mining operations. PM is easily entrained by wind and takes a long time to settle once airborne.

* NSW Dept. of Health – Fact sheet, Mine dust and you

PM is generated when wind blows over bare ground and stockpiles.

* US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Fugitive dust sources

  • Dust becomes entrained in air at wind speeds of 19km/hr. and above.
  • PM2.5 will settle slowly because of air turbulence.

* US Virginia State Dept. of Environmental Quality – Potomac River generating station permit comments* Link broken. See here to search

PM 2.5 particles will disperse farther than larger particles.

* US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Urban fugitive dust emissions current knowledge

pp. 4-9, 4-11 A simple linear model of dust dispersion based on wind direction is appropriate for dust  from a single source travelling over flat terrain.

* ABC News – BHP rejects open cut mine dust fears

16km is cited as an example of a safe distance from an open cut mine.

MAP OF CENSUS COLLECTION DISTRICTS

The small areas bounded by blue lines are the smallest collection areas used by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There are 132 collection districts either wholly or partly within 10 km of the Olstan site,
excluding a sparsely populated area of Cessnock.

POPULATION WITHIN 10km OF OLSTAN PROJECT
BASED ON 2006 CENSUS

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that the population of Lake Macquarie increased from 191 995 in 2006 to 193 092 in 2007, an increase of 0.571%.

Applying the same percentage increase to the affected area for the period 2006 to 2008 gives a current population of     77,189 x 1.00571 x 1.00571          =       78,073

SUBURB POPULATION Census
Collection
District
Population Portion
Included
Number
Included
Eraring 138 1120309 212 65% 138
Wangi 2533 1120708 788 100% 788
1120709 620 100% 620
1120710 447 100% 447
1120711 319 100% 319
1120712 599 60% 359
2533
Arcadia Vale 811 1120707 811 100% 811
Buttaba 1405 1120705 697 100% 697
1120706 708 100% 708
1405
Balmoral 870 1120701 870 100% 870
Fishing Point 1202 1120703 495 100% 495
1120704 707 100% 707
1202
Rathmines 1664 1120702 837 100% 837
1120713 827 100% 827
1664
Kilaben Bay 1275 1120801 411 100% 411
1120802 235 100% 235
1120810 629 100% 629
1275
Coal Point 1734 1120807 581 100% 581
1120808 802 100% 802
1120809 351 100% 351
1734
Carey Bay 955 1120806 512 100% 512
1120811 443 100% 443
955
Toronto 5161 1120803 316 100% 316
1120804 484 100% 484
1120805 687 100% 687
1120904 450 100% 450
1120905 548 100% 548
1120906 591 100% 591
1120907 624 100% 624
1120908 691 100% 691
1120910 770 100% 770
5161
Rural 827 1120112 56 60% 34
1120301 154 100% 154
1120304 109 95% 104
1120306 118 100% 118
1120307 418 100% 418
827
Awaba 350 1120305 350 100% 350
Fassifern 599 1120411 599 100% 599
Blackalls Park 2778 1120901 582 100% 582
1120902 488 100% 488
1120903 722 100% 722
1120909 743 100% 743
1120911 243 100% 243
2778
Fennell Bay 772 1120409 871 100% 87
1120410 685 100% 685
772
Bolton Point 1590 1120406 491 100% 491
1120407 999 100% 999
1120408 668 100% 100
1590
Woodrising 2061 1120405 628 100% 682
1120412 436 100% 436
1120413 943 100% 943
2061
Marmong Point 395 1120404 395 100% 395
Booragul 988 1120402 649 100% 649
1120403 339 100% 339
988
Teralba 1457 1120302 666 100% 666
1120401 791 100% 791
1457
Killingworth 720 1120311 720 100% 720
Barnsley 1798 1120201 215 100% 215
1120202 655 100% 655
1120209 436 100% 436
1120212 492 100% 492
1798
Holmesville 1544 1120103 711 100% 711
1120104 833 100% 833
1544
West Wallsend 1369 1120101 674 100% 674
1120102 993 70% 695
1369
Cameron Park 3410 1120105 1147 100% 1147
1120109 935 100% 935
1120113 1897 70% 1328
3410
Edgeworth 4904 1120106 367 80% 294
1120107 673 95% 639
1120108 905 30% 272
1120110 538 100% 538
1120203 911 100% 911
1120204 536 100% 536
1120205 831 100% 831
1120206 343 100% 343
1120207 541 100% 541
4904
Glendale 282 1120208 704 40% 282
Argenton 1326 1120210 605 99% 599
1120211 734 99% 727
1326
Boolaroo 948 1121203 425 100% 425
1121204 523 100% 523
948
Speers Point 3107 1121201 714 100% 714
1121205 310 100% 310
1121206 157 100% 157
1121207 274 100% 274
1121208 488 100% 488
1121209 490 100% 490
1121211 674 100% 674
3107
Macquarie Hills 2765 1121210 482 100% 482
1121213 865 100% 865
1121214 757 100% 757
1121215 661 100% 661
2765
Lakelands 1561 1121112 890 100% 890
1121202 671 100% 671
1561
Warners Bay 6985 1121101 501 100% 501
1121102 628 99% 622
1121103 429 100% 429
1121104 805 100% 805
1121105 656 100% 656
1121106 543 100% 543
1121107 965 99% 955
1121109 705 99% 698
1121110 787 100% 787
1121111 335 100% 335
1121212 654 100% 654
6985
Mount Hutton 300 1121108 500 35% 175
1121901 624 20% 125
300
Eleebana 5726 1121002 777 100% 777
1121003 1283 100% 1238
1121004 713 100% 713
1121008 780 90% 702
1121010 732 100% 732
1121011 701 100% 701
1121012 674 100% 674
1121907 1259 15% 189
5726
Croudace Bay 394 1121009 394 100% 394
Valentine 5678 1121911 1019 100% 1019
1121001 903 100% 903
1121005 646 100% 646
1121006 739 100% 739
1121007 747 100% 747
1122108 1337 100% 1337
1121013 287 100% 287
5678
Floraville 883 1121908 1104 80% 883
Belmont 3933 1122101 1039 100% 1039
1122102 776 100% 776
1122103 752 70% 526
1122104 626 70% 438
1122105 599 50% 300
1122110 404 100% 404
1122114 450 100% 450
3933
TOTAL 77189 77189
Media Release: URGE, United Residents Group for the Environment of Lake Macquarie


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