Fears Hazelwood coal mine will become a toxic lake if flooded before clean-up

Environmental groups fear toxic coal ash will be released into the environment if the former Hazelwood coal mine in eastern Victoria is flooded and turned into a

lake. Coal ash is a by-product of burning coal for power generation and contains contaminants that include heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic. At 640 gigalitres,

the Hazelwood coal mine is bigger than Sydney Harbour and sits directly south of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley. The mine's owner, French energy giant Engie, is preparing an

Environmental Effects Statement (EES) for the Victorian government on its plans to fill it with water from the Latrobe River system. The EES is not expected to be assessed

by the planning minister until 2024.  But groups such as Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) want the Victorian government to consider alternative options for

rehabilitating the site. EJA environmental lawyer Chloe Badcock said the organisation had commissioned two reports that found coal ash would likely be released into the lake

if the mine was flooded without a prior clean-up. "The reports found that removing the coal ash from the mine pit before flooding it would be more proactive, more

protective, and more expensive for Engie," Ms Badcock said. EJA wanted other options considered, such as partially filling it with solid material.  Engie has

previously said it wanted to turn the mine into a lake because it was the safest and most stable solution. Environmental concerns In 2020, Victoria's Environment Protection

Authority issued Engie a clean-up notice after a coal ash dam at Hazelwood that was not properly lined leached into groundwater.