Business is booming.

Sydney’s Royal National Park: Horror black sludge pollution discovered in a creek

A normally pristine creek in Australia’s oldest national park has turned black with a thick floating silt after an American giant spilled mining waste into it.

James McCormack, editor of the adventure publication Wild Magazine, took the horrifying photos of Camp Gully Creek in Sydney’s Royal National Park last Wednesday while running.

“I came through the bottom of Camp Gully creek, I stopped and caught my breath and looked at the water and went ‘wait a minute, that looks surreal’,” Mr McCormack told the Daily Mail Australia.

A normally pristine creek in Australia's oldest national park has turned black with thick floating silt after an American giant spills mining waste into it

A normally pristine creek in Australia’s oldest national park has turned black with thick floating silt after an American giant spills mining waste into it

James McCormack, editor of the adventure publication Wild Magazine, took the horrifying photos of Camp Gully Creek in Sydney's Royal National Park last Wednesday while running.

James McCormack, editor of the adventure publication Wild Magazine, took the horrifying photos of Camp Gully Creek in Sydney's Royal National Park last Wednesday while running.

James McCormack, editor of the adventure publication Wild Magazine, took the horrifying photos of Camp Gully Creek in Sydney’s Royal National Park last Wednesday while running.

How the waterways in Sydney's Royal National Park provide dry weather - pollution-free

How the waterways in Sydney's Royal National Park provide dry weather - pollution-free

How the waterways in Sydney’s Royal National Park provide dry weather – pollution-free

“The water was all black when it flowed over the rocks, inky black.

“It’s an area that is hardly visited, no trails are marked on maps, but I go in a lot, it’s a beautiful rainforest, or most of the time it is beautiful.”

Looking closer, he saw that the water had turned black with dust with “thick streams like black custard, black mud,” floating on top and settling on the sides of the creek.

“It was absolutely disgusting.”

Carefully avoiding the silt, he jumped up Camp Gully creek to find out where the pollution was coming from.

It turned out that the well was one of Australia’s oldest coal mines, the Metropolitan Colliery, which is adjacent to the park.

Runner James McCormack shows the actual color of the water of a creek next to the Metropolitan Colliery south of Sydney

Runner James McCormack shows the actual color of the water of a creek next to the Metropolitan Colliery south of Sydney

Runner James McCormack shows the actual color of the water of a creek next to the Metropolitan Colliery south of Sydney

NSW government statements have confirmed that the mine has polluted local rivers with spilled water from mining operations.

The company that operates the mine, which straddles one of Sydney’s water reservoirs, Woronora, is American giant Peabody Energy.

Peabody made nearly $5 billion operating 23 mines at home and in Australia by 2021, including the Metropolitan Colliery.

According to Peabody’s website, 1.4 million tons of coal from the Metropolitan Mine were sold in 2019, generating $435 million in “direct and indirect economic benefits.”

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency fined Peabody in June $15,000 for polluting a local waterway in nearby Helensburgh, which is also in the Royal National Park.

On Sept. 9, the EPA released a Prevention Notice, telling Daily Mail Australia it is “investigating contamination from the Camp Gully Creek site” and expects the company to begin cleaning “next week.”

The Royal National Park is a listed monument and in 1872 became the second official national park in the world, after Yellowstone.

The general public has to pay $12 to park a car anywhere within the 150-square-mile limit.

In 2022, coal and coal particles were found several times in the Hacking River, which had turned black in places, sparking outrage from environmentalists.

Another man who photographed the pollution this month, Cooper Riach, described it as “horrific.”

‘The water in these photos flows straight into the Hacking River, through the Royal National Park, to the Audley Weir and into the Port Hacking Waterway.’

Sydney's Royal National Park is listed as a heritage site and became the second official national park in the world in 1872, after Yellowstone

Sydney's Royal National Park is listed as a heritage site and became the second official national park in the world in 1872, after Yellowstone

Sydney’s Royal National Park is listed as a heritage site and became the second official national park in the world in 1872, after Yellowstone

US giant Peabody Energy operates a coal mine on the edge of the Royal National Park, but environmentalists say they should be banned

US giant Peabody Energy operates a coal mine on the edge of the Royal National Park, but environmentalists say they should be banned

US giant Peabody Energy operates a coal mine on the edge of the Royal National Park, but environmentalists say they should be banned

“The Hacking River, the body of water that flows through the heart of Royal National Park, has been hit by yet another discharge of coal waste,” said Gary Dunnett, CEO of the National Parks Association (NPA).

“The view was truly incredible, the river looked more like flowing tar than the crystal clear water you would expect in the deep rainforest of our first national park.”

The Sutherland Shire Environment Center claimed life had perished in the river and called on the NSW government to ban Peabody from operating the mine.

Pollution at Camp Gully Creek in Australia's oldest national park, the Royal National Park

Pollution at Camp Gully Creek in Australia's oldest national park, the Royal National Park

Pollution at Camp Gully Creek in Australia’s oldest national park, the Royal National Park

What trailer runner and magazine editor James McCormack saw - and filmed - at his local creek in the Royal National Park

What trailer runner and magazine editor James McCormack saw - and filmed - at his local creek in the Royal National Park

What trailer runner and magazine editor James McCormack saw – and filmed – at his local creek in the Royal National Park

“This company has shown that it cannot be trusted in the vicinity of the Royal National Park,” said the center’s spokesperson, Dr Catherine Reynolds.

“This incident indicates that they cannot be entrusted to mines under the Woronora reservoir either.

‘Camp Gully creek now seems barren for aquatic life, and we are concerned about the extent to which this coal sludge bioaccumulates in the riparian zones downstream.’

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin told Daily Mail Australia that he had spoken ‘directly’ with Peabody and emphasized the need to repair the damage.

The University of NSW planned to reintroduce platypus, an endangered species, to the Hacking River in the Royal National Park, but it could now be too polluted

The University of NSW planned to reintroduce platypus, an endangered species, to the Hacking River in the Royal National Park, but it could now be too polluted

The University of NSW planned to reintroduce platypus, an endangered species, to the Hacking River in the Royal National Park, but it could now be too polluted

Polluted water from Camp Gully flows into the Hacking River which runs through the Royal National Park to popular tourist spots such as Audley Weir

Polluted water from Camp Gully flows into the Hacking River which runs through the Royal National Park to popular tourist spots such as Audley Weir

Polluted water from Camp Gully flows into the Hacking River which runs through the Royal National Park to popular tourist spots such as Audley Weir

“I have spoken directly with the company to express my deep concern and my immediate focus is to ensure that remediation is an urgent priority,” Mr Griffin said in a statement.

One of the biggest concerns is how pollution is affecting fish, plants and animals, including the chance of platypus, which were meant to revive the area after not being seen for decades.

The University of NSW planned to reintroduce platypus into the Hacking River in the Royal National Park.

Platypus populations are declining and the iconic mammal is considered an endangered species.

The NSW EPA said Peabody must now “take preventative action immediately.”

These include ‘improving stormwater management practices and monitoring, increasing stormwater storage and stricter water quality standards before discharge from site’.

A statement from Peabody Energy said it “takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.”

“The company has taken immediate action to resolve issues identified by the extreme rainfall that hit the Illawarra region in the first half of this year.”

The company blamed the mine for receiving ‘almost 2500 mm of rain, almost double the expected annual rainfall in just seven months’.

Peabody said it is “working closely” with the EPA “to address the effects of the recent major falls” and that it had “engaged outside environmental experts to identify impacts on local waterways and advise on practical remedial actions.”

According to official Bureau of Meteorology data, rainfall in the area near the mine was less than half the median for August.

Peabody added that its own environmental team has already carried out remediation work in the “immediate area of ​​our site” but that it was “determined to carry out any further activities.”