Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Weekend at Ulan with anti-coal campaigners

I went to Mudgee over the weekend, with fellow Rivers SOS members, for a strategy meeting.

As we drove through Lithgow, past the massive Wallerawang and Mt Piper power stations, and then were staying near the Ulan coal mines, naturally we spoke a lot about strategies for persuading the NSW Government to control the damage done to rivers and aquifers by coal mining.

The most famous geological feature in this area is "The Drip", a massive overhanging rock structure, about 200 metres long, at least 50 metres high. It was apparently formed by vertical jointing of the sandstone rock, which has ruptured open, allowing the Goulburn River to flow along this "crack" which is now some 200 metres wide. There is a parallel cliff face across the river, but not quite so spectacular.

The feature which earns this cliff the name is that half-way up the cliff there is a impervious layer of rock,
an "aquitard". This layer prevents water in the sandstone rock above it from seeping down to lower layers, so, naturally, the water moves horizontally, under pressure from the water above this layer, and leaks out where the major vertical fault line has caused a cliff face."The Drip" is not particularly wet now. It seems it is drying out, owing to coal mining which is occurring some hundreds of metres away from this extraordinary feature.
A few hundred metres downstream from "The Drip" is the "Mini Drip". It is in good condition, with a magnificent layer of ferns growing out of the leaking layer.
Here it is again, looking downstream.
On the way back downstream from "The Drip" I noticed this beautiful and unusual sandstone rock, which had cracked off a much larger rock, which itself had fallen from a cliff face above. I was taken by the delicate pinkish colouration in the rock.
Unfortunately, large pieces of coal get washed down the Goulburn River, from the Ulan Mine. It seems the river has been diverted around the edge of the open cut mine, some 5 Kms away from this spot. However, here is evidence of large chunks of coal being washed down the river.


mick said...

Magnificent country! Effects of the mines - disgraceful.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick

The drying out is the main problem, for that will also risk killing the river, in the long term. Lets hope they can prevent the mine for coming closer.
It is wonderful country.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
Great post full of your usual informative detail. I've not heard the term 'aquitard' before - very apt. The pink is probably due to the inclusion of some iron oxide do you think? Some people pay big money for pink sandstone tiles I believe.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gouldiae.
Glad you got the meaning of Aquitard. It is a good word, especially when you can see a cliff with an obvious layer in it, which is leaking. A veritable geology text in front of you.
There is a lot of iron in the sandstone, but mostly it causes orange/brown staining. But it might be just a very gentle infusion of iron. I liked the colour, too.

Duncan said...

You can't baffle us southerners with long words Denis! Seriously, all the best with your endeavours.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Duncan,
Aaw, Gee, Shucks, I thought I could put one over all youse country folks!

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hello Denis,

this particular area of the Goulburn River is indeed spectacular and special. I haven't got out to visit it for several years.

Your involvement in environmental preservation is a real credit to you. Our land is indeed fortunate to have dedicated people like you raising awareness and attempting to make a positive difference.

Well done.


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Gaye.
I had not been in this area for many years (not since starting to learn about coal and water issues).
However, there are some lovely features along the Goulburn River.
Fortunately, there are many locals who do value the River, and are fighting to protect it. But it is scary when you realise the Governments (State and Federal) are committed to expanding coal exports.
We need a total mind change - but that is a big ask!