EPA issues penalty notices to Whitehaven Coal

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued four penalty notices totalling $6,000 to Whitehaven Coal Limited for polluting waters and breaching its environment protection licences at its Narrabri and Tarrawonga coal mines.

Acting Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said the EPA issued the four penalty notices, at $1,500 for each, on 1 March 2012.

“The recent heavy rains have led to high volumes of storm water that have exceeded the capacity of the mines to capture and store. This has resulted in overflows at both mines.

“Although the recent wet weather has come after a long dry period, mine operators should have measures in place to deal with excess stormwater.

“The EPA is very concerned by the number of incidents that have occurred and has formally put Whitehaven Coal on notice to improve its environmental performance,” Mr Gifford said.

Two penalty notices were issued as a result of an incident in November 2011, when water from a sediment dam at the Narrabri Coal mine overflowed and up to 0.6 megalitres entered Kurrajong Creek tributary. The mine reported the overflow to the EPA and undertook sampling of the waters. The EPA also ordered the mine to modify controls around the sediment dam and reduce the dam’s catchment area.

The Tarrawonga Coal mine was also issued with two penalty notices in relation to a sediment discharge that occurred in January 2012.

The incident occurred when a surface diversion bank failed and water containing sediment entered Goonbri Creek. The mine reported the overflow to the EPA and undertook water sampling.

Mr Gifford said that it was important that measures were put in place to avoid any reoccurrence of these events.

“As a result of the incidents the EPA is requiring Whitehaven to submit stormwater management plans for all of its mines.

“The EPA is also reviewing further water overflow incidents at the mines that occurred this year. Whitehaven has provided incident reports to the EPA concerning these matters. The EPA has inspected the mines and is reviewing the reports along with sampling results and is considering further regulatory action.”