Narrabri Coal to pay $120,000 after mine waste caused landfill

Narrabri Coal Operations Pty Ltd will pay $120,000 to the Environmental Trust as part of an Enforceable Undertaking agreed with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for allegedly transporting hazardous waste which subsequently caused a series of fires at the Narrabri landfill.

“The Narrabri Shire Council landfill had a number of fires in early to mid-April 2019 allegedly caused by equipment from the Narrabri Coal mine disposed of at the landfill,’’ said EPA Director Regulatory Operations Metro North Adam Gilligan.

“The EPA investigation found that after a training exercise at the mine, over 100 self-rescuer units were put into an industrial bin which was then taken to the landfill.”

Self-rescuer units supply workers with oxygen during incidents in underground mines. The units contained between 90 and 120 kilograms of potassium hydroxide, which is classified as a corrosive dangerous good as it can generate very high pH levels when exposed to liquids.

“These units should not have been disposed of at the landfill as they are classified as hazardous waste, which the landfill is not authorised to receive.

“When split open by compaction of the landfill cell, chemicals from the units can ignite. This is not only a safety issue but a breach of hazardous waste rules.”

Mr Gilligan said the EPA considers that the incident breached Narrabri Coal’s licence and the company’s waste transport obligations.

Following the incident Narrabri Coal hired a contractor to manually search through 700 cubic metres of general waste to try to recover the self-rescue units. A five-week search recovered 12 of the units. An ongoing clean-up operation continues within the impacted waste cell to ensure the site is safe for workers and the environmental impacts are addressed.

Enforceable undertakings are a tool the EPA can use as an alternative to prosecution. The legally binding agreements are designed to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future and improve environmental outcomes.

The $120,000 that Narrabri Coal will pay to the Environmental Trust as part of the agreement will be provided to Narrabri Shire Council to help to fund the development of a new waste cell at the landfill.

The company will also alert all Whitehaven Coal Limited mines about the incident, pay the EPA’s legal and investigation costs, design a compulsory training module for employees on management of hazardous substances and present about the incident and key lessons at a NSW Minerals Council Environment and Community Committee meeting.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy or read the enforceable undertakings guidelines.

Enforceable undertaking agreements can be viewed on the public register.