March 6, 2013

Yallourn Mine is catching more water and owner EnergyAustralia is seeking an increase in its water discharge licence, Group Executive Manager Operations and Construction Michael Hutchinson said today.

Mr Hutchinson said that although the amount of coal mined had not increased, the mine catchment had grown since the original licence was granted in April 1996. On top of this, a review of rainfall levels shows that in the past two years, rainfall levels have been consistently above long term averages.
“Our current licence is no longer sufficient enough to meet our water discharge volume needs, so we are seeking an increase to our licence allowance,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“The mine, including revegetated sections, acts as a large catchment. As the footprint of the mine increases, so does the amount of rainwater run-off that is captured which would otherwise have entered the river system.
“We need to be able to pump the extra water from the mine to ensure we have uninterrupted access to coal.
“Without an increase to the licence volume, there is a risk that in the future we may not be able to pump out enough water from the mine.
“This could disrupt operations, and may impact on the cost and availability Victoria’s power supply.”
EnergyAustralia began work on the application in 2011 but was deferred following the failure of the Morwell River Diversion last June.
Under the current licence, an average 50 megalitres a day over a year is able to be discharged from the Mine with a maximum of 104 ML a day.
EnergyAustralia is seeking to be able to discharge an average of 80.5 ML a day, with a maximum of up to 150 ML a day. Typical average daily discharges will be about 60 ML a day during average rainfall years.
“While we need the option of being able to discharge up to 150 ML in a day in certain circumstances, that does not mean we will be discharging that amount daily,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“The proposed extra volumes mean the amount of water we will be discharging into the Morwell River will make up just 2 per cent of average Latrobe River flows. Currently it makes up about 1.6 per cent of average Latrobe River flows.”
Mr Hutchinson said all water pumped into the Morwell River was treated to ensure the quality met the standards set under the EPA licence agreement and was comparable to river water quality.
“We continually monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of the discharges to make sure the river’s natural environment is maintained, and these results are regularly submitted to the EPA,” he said.
“Our tests show the downstream water quality is comparable to upstream water quality.
“Under this proposed change, the quality of the water will not change, only the volume.”
Mr Hutchinson said it was expected the extra flows into the Morwell River during the dry summer period would benefit the environment.
A community consultation session will be held on 13 March at Yallourn North Bowling Club, Reserve Street, Yallourn North from 4.30pm to 6pm.
For more information about the consultation session or to find out more about the application, phone (03) 5128 2803.