Shocking new research commissioned by Lock the Gate, based on a painstaking analysis of water licences, shows that coal miners in the Hunter Valley hold entitlements to a massive 143 billion litres of water.

The research reveals for the first time that the miners own 55% of all ‘high security’ water shares from the Hunter River, which means that in times of drought, the coal mines will get preferential access to water. Most of this water is used for washing dirty coal and suppressing dust in open-cut mining operations.

Can you help spread the word about the findings of this new report – ‘Unfair Shares: How Coal Mines Bought the Hunter River’ – by sharing these stunning graphics on Facebook and twitter?


Farmers are now struggling to compete for the very water they rely on for their livelihoods. Purchases by mining companies have driven up the cost of water in the Hunter Valley, which is now the most expensive in the state, costing an average of $2,000 per megalitre.

The discharge of wastewater from the Hunter coal mines is increasing the salinity of the Hunter River and its tributaries, and the failure to fill open-cut pits after mining is resulting in ‘final voids’ which gather toxic wastewater.

There are 22 mine voids in the Hunter. The Mt Arthur mine void alone will be 4,000m long, 680m wide and 180m deep – covering an area as big as the Sydney CBD. The salt load of final void water increases over time, drawing down surrounding groundwater for hundreds of years.

This new report also reveals the dramatic escalation in open-cut coal mining in the Valley in the last 30 years. The area affected has increased 18 times since 1981, from 1,742 hectares to 31,500 hectares.

HUNTER-COAL-18-TIMES.jpgIs it any wonder that Hunter communities are saying that enough is enough? Open-cut coal mining on this scale is unsafe. It’s threatening our water, the very life blood that we rely on to survive. And it is costing us all dearly – we all need clean food and water.

That’s why we’re asking for a fair go for the Hunter. With your help, we’ll be pushing to have the recommendations from the report implemented in the lead up to next year’s state election.

We’ll be asking for no-go zones for mining around major creeks and rivers, and important groundwater sources, and new restrictions to prevent increased salinity in the regions rivers.

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Lock the Gate Alliance