of Mining over Time
at Wingecarribee was begun in 1967 on a small scale by Mr J. F.
Pike. The following year, Sydney Water Board proposed the construction
of a dam on the Wingecarribee River which would inundate a large
part of the swamp. The mine owners objected but the dam went ahead.
resulted in the creation of the Wingecarribee Reservoir and the
loss of about half the peat resources under water. A voluntary buffer-zone
was set up between the mining operations and the Reservoir.
continued for the term of the leases and beyond. When the leases
expired (in 1991 and 1992) the mine owners applied for a renewal
of the leases for 20 years to 2012. Renewal was opposed by seven
government departments and authorities including the Environmental
Protection Authority, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney
Water Corporation, the Department of Land and Water Conservation.
Their opposition was based on the damage that mining was doing to
the Wetland. In an unprecedented move they issued a joint declaration
opposing the renewal of the mining leases for environmental reasons.
Wingecarribee Shire Council had banned mining in the area in 1990
when it had been zoned for environmental protection.
Department of Mineral Resources argued for renewal of the leases
and continuation of mining.
continued despite the expired leases. Under the law, mining can
continue after the expiry of a lease and until the application for
renewal has been determined. In this case successive Ministers avoided
making a decision because of the controversy surrounding the Wingecarribee
mine was purchased by Emerald Peat P/L in 1995 after the former
mine owner had gone bankrupt.
a Mining Warden's inquiry was held. Although several government
departments and agencies, as well as a variety of experts gave evidence
of the detrimental impacts of the mining, the Mining Wardens recommended
that the leases should be renewed.
not till the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Craig Knowles,
imposed a 12 month interim conservation order on the swamp in March
1998 that mining stopped.
The decision was made on the recommendation of the NSW Heritage
Council. At the time 8 men were employed mining peat there, 6 full-time
and two part-time.
Emerald Peat appealed the conservation order.
Warden's report to the Minister had still not been released when
the Minister for Mineral Resources recommended that the leases be
afterwards heavy rains caused the parked dredge to break free tearing
a channel through the peat to the Reservoir and the swamp collapsed.
A week or so later, the Minister for Mineral Resources, Bob Martin,
announced that the mining leases would not be renewed. (News Release
Michael Oakes, Senior Geologist, Land Use and Resource Assessment
Section, Geological Survey Division, NSW Department of Mineral Resources,
The Wingecarribee Swamp Peat Deposit: A Submission to the Chief
Mining Warden's Inquiry into Renewal of Special Lease 567 and 568
(Act 1906) to Mine Peat, 1967.