History of the Swamp

Mining Operations

Extent of Mining over Time

Peat mining 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.

The dam 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.

Mining 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.

Only the Department of Mineral Resources argued for renewal of the leases and continuation of mining.

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 Swamp. The mine was purchased by Emerald Peat P/L in 1995 after the former mine owner had gone bankrupt.

In 1997 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.

It was 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.

The Mining Warden's report to the Minister had still not been released when the Minister for Mineral Resources recommended that the leases be renewed.

Shortly 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 19/8/98)

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Geoffrey 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.


This site has been designed, researched and produced by Sharon Beder
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