Water modelling used to predict the impact of Whitehaven Coal’s (WHC) extension to its Narrabri underground mine has been described as “counterintuitive” by a government department.

Key points:

  • Whitehaven Coal has applied to extend to its Narrabri underground mine
  • A NSW government department says it’s not yet confident about the company’s water modelling
  • Landholders fear the mine could deplete groundwater supplies

The assessment has reinforced concerns among landholders about the potential impact mining in north-west NSW could have on the availability of groundwater.

WHC has applied for an extension to its Narrabri underground mine but faces opposition from within the Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment (DPIE).

In a letter to a senior departmental official, DPIE-Water chief knowledge officer Mitchell Isaacs said the department did not have confidence it could predict the impact of the extension project on water supplies.

“The water balance appears to say modelling will increase surface water flows and groundwater modelling,” Mr Isaacs said.

“There are apparent inconsistencies between groundwater models for different developments in the area.”

The department also warned there was a risk the level in the Namoi Alluvial aquifer could be reduced by up to 10 metres, well beyond WHC’s estimate of two metres.

Farmers object

The disagreement is the latest chapter in a long-running battle over water between WHC and landholders.

Last year the company received approval to extend the life and footprint of its Vickery mine near Gunnedah, despite farmers’ objections about the project’s use of water.

Maules Creek farmers are worried about Maules Creek Mine's collection and use of surface water.

Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter is among the landholders who have raised objections to the miner’s plan.(

ABC News: Elena De Bruijne


In a submission to the department, a collection of Boggabri and Baan Baa landholders said the development put their groundwater “at risk”.

“The proponent, Whitehaven Coal, has proved time and time again that they cannot be trusted to do the right thing by the local people and the environment,” they said.

A Whitehaven Coal spokesperson said it was a standard part of an approvals process for proponents to work with government agencies to resolve technical disagreements.

“We have been consulting closely with DPIE-Water on its review of our modelling and are confident DPIE’s feedback will be fully and adequately addressed in our response to submissions.”

The company is expected to soon provide its formal response to submissions made in the planning process.

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Miner’s ‘counterintuitive’ water modelling in the spotlight
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