The Friends of Mound Springs have written to the SA Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board to express serious concern about the proposed mining development Arckaringa Large Coal Mine Project and the impact that it would have on the Western Great Artesian Basin and its associated mound springs. FOMS was first alerted to this proposal by David Noonan, Campaigner for The Wilderness Society (South Australia) Inc., and has also conducted its own background research.
FOMS has not seen itself as a frontline lobby group, but it is so concerned about the Arckaringa project that at a general meeting earlier this year it was resolved that FOMS should raise its concerns in whatever way was seen to be appropriate, and the letter to the NRM Board was one outcome of this decision.
The Arckaringa mining proposal, by Altona Energy, involves thirty years of dewatering of the Western GAB at an average daily rate eight times higher than the current rate of extraction for Olympic Dam. There can be no doubt that extractions of this magnitude would have a profoundly adverse impact on the Western GAB and its associated springs, many of which are of high cultural and biological importance.
FOMS’ concerns have been heightened by recent hydrogeological research that has demonstrated clearly that the GAB is far from being a relatively well-connected, uniform basin. Of particular relevance for the Arckaringa proposal is the fact that the Western GAB is more or less isolated from recharge inflows to the eastern and central parts of the Basin – there is little current recharge, meaning that the (effectively) fossil waters are being drawn down at a greater rate than the small amount of recharge. What we have is a sub-basin in a state of long-term pressure decline and dewatering on the scale proposed by Altona Energy can only accelerate this decline, with significant adverse consequences.
Altona has suggested that it would reinject GAB water to support mound springs adversely affected by dewatering. This can only be received with scepticism. Earlier experimental reinjection of mound springs near Borefield A by the Western Mining Corporation confirms that this re-injection technique is unproven and high risk.
In short, FOMS is profoundly concerned by the Arckaringa proposal and has joined with the Wilderness Society of South Australia, the Conservation Council of South Australia and other lead conservation bodies in expressing opposition to the project.