The Independent Expert Scientific Committee will provide advice on research priorities to address critical gaps in scientific understanding. The committee provides advise on relevant research commissioned by the Australian Government linked to water impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mine development. The research is expected to:
- assist better decision making, regulation, natural resource management and industry practice
- address issues that represent the highest risks to freshwater resources, land and ecosystems, and
- support bioregional assessments in priority areas.
The overarching goal of the research agenda is to increase the scientific evidence that underpins decisions about coal seam gas projects and large coal mining development, ensuring these decisions are based on the most rigorous science available.
In January 2012, an interim committee was established in advance of legislation being passed by Parliament. Over the six months from January to July 2012, the interim committee considered a number of research themes and key priorities and the Commonwealth Office of Water Science commissioned 31 initial knowledge projects and literature searches. These commenced in 2012. The projects are designed to tackle critical gaps in scientific understanding about the potential water-related impacts of coal seam gas and/or large coal mining development. This information is designed to help strengthen regulatory decisions and increase scientific evidence around regional scale management of coal seam gas and coal mining industry.
Research findings will be made publicly available and will aim to improve the information base on which future planning and environmental decisions are made by Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
Further research is expected to fill identified critical gaps. The statutory Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development, which was appointed at the end of November 2012 and met for the first time at the end of 2012, is currently developing a research plan to guide this effort.
To assist in the development of the research plan, the Committee hosted a high-level, scientific research workshop at Old Parliament House in Canberra on 19 March 2013. Participants were drawn from academia, government, industry and the community, with a mix of expertise and experience in geology, hydrology, hydrogeology and ecology, as well as a geographic coverage. The purpose of the workshop was to assist the IESC in identifying research priorities and strategic national knowledge projects relevant to water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments. More information about the workshop outcomes.
The research undertaken to date has been framed to provide knowledge and information and scientific advice to address major themes about the risks to water resources of coal seam gas and large coal mines. This approach specifically links the research outputs to increasing community confidence in the science available for state and Commonwealth regulators to make decisions.
If you would like further information or wish to provide comment on the IESC's research priorities please email the IESC Secretariat: IESCSecretariat@environment.gov.au.
These projects have been arranged in thematic groupings:
- Aquifers - taking into account both aquifer contamination and aquifer integrity
- Aquatic health - including co-produced water
- Chemicals: human and environmental health
- Groundwater and surface water processes (and ecosystems)
Projects identified by the interim committee and commissioned by the Office of Water Science relating to these themes are shown below. Results of these projects will be made publicly available progressively, commencing in 2013 as they are completed.
Critical Science Reviews are projects that provide a review of the themes within the literature and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing research and industry practice.
Bioregional assessments and related projects
A critical element of the research agenda will be bioregional assessments.
The expected key research deliverables from the bioregional assessment process will include:
- An overview of each region and sub regions, data, reference material and three dimensional 'conceptual' models.
- Surface and groundwater models to provide an understanding of how interacts to form a water balance.
- Risk assessment reports on likely impacts of mine development on community regional environmental values.
For more information see: bioregional assessments
Planning and management - other supporting information
Research has also been commissioned to identify gaps in the scientific literature, a reference map of knowledge projects outcomes, links and synergies, and to ensure consistency across critical science review reports. This work aims to increase access to recent information, including journal articles and provide key findings in overarching summaries.
A bibliographic database of relevant (coal seam gas and coal mining) scientific literature will be developed and undertaking a review of recently commissioned coal seam gas and large coal mining research projects to avoid duplication.