West Cliff mine
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In its 2009 annual report, BHP Billiton reported that the West Cliff mine was commissioned in 1976. The company did not report what the actual production was from the mine (providing only an aggregate figure for the three Illawarra Coal mines) but states that the measured resource for the mine is 49 million tonnes with a total resource of 224 million tonnes. Illawarra Coal's 2008 Sustainability report lists production at the mine as being 2.55 million tonnes.
BHP Billiton states that "with a washery capable of processing in excess of 4.5 million tonnes and a capacity to store over 2.5 million tonnes of coal on site, West Cliff provides the production reliability vital to steel makers.". It also states that coal from the mine is either stored on site, trucked to the BlueScope Port Kembla steel plant or to the Port Kembla Coal Terminal for export.
In August 2010 a report by researchers from the University of Western Sydney revealed that contaminated water from the mine was "causing serious water pollution that is very likely to be damaging in-stream ecosystems". The report revealed that water emitted from the mine was five times more saline than water in surrounding creeks. However, the report noted that the pollution licence for the mine imposes no limit on the salt concentration in the emissions from the mine. "I can't believe that we have put out something called an environment protection licence without any provision to protect the environment," said Dr Ian Wright, one of the co-authors of the report.
A BHP Billiton spokeswoman said told the Sydney Morning Herald' reporter Ben Cubby that "Illawarra Coal has been working with [the department] since 2004 to address the level of influence from its operations and implemented a range of initiatives that have improved water quality in the West Cliff Mine's Brennans Creek dam. The company remains committed to continuing those improvement initiatives."