Bengalla Mining Company to pay $50,000 for dam overflow

Bengalla Mining Company Pty Limited will pay $50,000 to Muswellbrook Shire Council after sediment dams overflowed into a local creek catchment in January.

Bengalla Mining Company has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the NSW Environment Protection Authority after two of the company’s Muswellbrook coal mine sediment dams overflowed due to insufficient capacity during heavy rain in January 2016.

The dams overflowed and approximately 1.8megalitres of saline water and sediment was consequently discharged into the Dry Creek catchment, which runs into the Hunter River.  

EPA Regional Director North Branch Adam Gilligan said the significant financial commitment was a reflection of the seriousness of the pollution.

“Heavy rain might not happen every day, but when it does, it has the potential to have a real impact on the environment. That’s why mines must have the appropriate measures in place, no matter how rare storm occurrences might be,” Mr Gilligan said.

“Bengalla Mining Company have been willing to improve their practices and we’ll be on site regularly ensuring the appropriate standards are met.”

The EPA investigation of the incident included site visits, soil and water testing and interviews with the company employees. It found that the dams had insufficient capacity due to sediment build-up and that BMC did not have adequate sediment and erosion control measures in place at the time of the Incident.  

Under the Enforceable Undertaking, the company has increased the holding capacity of its sediment dams, placed pipes and pumps around the site to divert any discharges away from the Dry Creek catchment, and ensured employees are trained to appropriately respond to overflow issues.

Muswellbrook Shire Council will use the $50,000 to develop their urban riparian landcare masterplan which is working towards increasing public access to, and enjoyment of, waterways around Muswellbrook.

Enforceable Undertakings are an alternative to prosecution that allows a company or individual to voluntarily enter into a binding agreement to improve environmental performance and to pay monies towards a local environmental project in response to a pollution incident.

Other tools the EPA uses to ensure environmental compliance include official cautions, penalty notices, notices and directions, mandatory audits and, when necessary, prosecutions.