BREAKING: The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued the Maules Creek Coal Mine with a fine of $15,000 for failing to minimise or prevent air pollution from truck movements on haul roads.
EPA Regional Director North Adam Gilligan said the EPA received an increased number of complaints between November 2016 and January 2017 about excessive dust coming from the mine, especially in early mornings.
“In response, the EPA conducted early morning surveillance of the mine to assess if best practice dust controls were being used,” Mr Gilligan said.
“During surveillance on 10 February 2017 the EPA identified that traffic from haul trucks transporting soil and rock waste (overburden) was generating excessive levels of road dust.
“It was clear that their measures to suppress the dust started too late and this simply doesn’t meet the standards the community, nor the EPA, expects.”
Wheel generated dust from haul roads within mines is the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites, contributing about 40% of total emissions.
Mine haul roads are generally dirt roads and sustain constant machine traffic. Best management practices to control dust from haul roads includes the use of water carts and chemical dust suppression.
This is especially important in summer with hotter temperatures leading to drier roads and increased water evaporation, which means more water is needed to reduce dust.
During the surveillance operation EPA officers identified that water carts were not being used until sometime after trucks commenced using the road. It was in this time, between the commencement of truck movements and the observation of the first water cart on the road that the high levels of dust were observed.
“Mines must not be complacent about managing dust from their activities. Dust levels must be minimised at all times. If they aren’t the EPA will take action.”
In 2014 the EPA issued a Pollution Reduction Program to the Maules Creek Coal Mine as part of the Dust Stop program. This required the mine to implement best practice measures to reduce its dust emissions.
The mine was required to assess dust generated by truck traffic and describe the measures they would implement to address this. In response, Maules Creek Coal Mine committed to using water to control dust on their roads.
“The mine made a commitment to use water to supress dust and in this instance they failed to do that adequately,” Mr Gilligan said.
The EPA will continue to monitor dust levels at the mine, including undertaking unannounced surveillance operations.
Whitehaven, the company who owns the mine, has been contacted for comment.