Hunter Valley mine cops a dusting

A Hunter Valley mine has been caught out during the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Operation Dust Patrol and has been fined $15,000 for breaching its operating licence.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said Operation Dust Patrol has been a big success with most mines adjusting operational activities on high risk, windy days.

Bengalla Mining Company, near Muswellbrook, was fined after it allegedly did not have proper measures in place to reduce dust from its operations, Ms Upton said.

“EPA officers have been on dust patrol whenever weather conditions are predicted to present a high risk of generating dust, and they inspected Bengalla’s mine on a dry, windy day.

“They found the mine did not have appropriate measures in place to reduce dust, and observed significant amounts of dust being generated and blown from an excavator.

“As a result, it breached its environmental protection licence conditions and was fined.

“Dust from mining activity in the Hunter Valley is a key concern for the community. During adverse weather conditions, all coal mines are expected to do the right thing and take extra precautions to ensure their operations do not generate excessive amounts of dust,” Ms Upton said.

“Each day an EPA officer checks the dust risk forecast, and on days predicted to be high risk, the mines are put on notice that EPA officers will be checking their operations to ensure best practice dust controls are implemented, including the shut down of operations if necessary.

“Let me be absolutely clear about this: the EPA and the community expect mine operators to keep dust under control and any mines that don’t do this face significant penalties,” Ms Upton said.

People can report concerns regarding dust risk directly to the mine or to EPA on 131 555.

All dust complaints made to the Environment Line are directed to the EPA officers in the field so they can target those areas of most concern to the community.