Environmental breaches cost Broken Hill mining companies $1.5 million

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has entered into an enforceable undertaking worth an estimated $1.5 million with Consolidated Mining & Civil Pty Ltd (CMC) and Consolidated Broken Hill Holdings Pty Ltd (CBHH) in relation to alleged breaches of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (‘POEO Act’).

The breaches involve two separate pollution incidents relating to the transport and deposit of lead laden material from the Pinnacles Mine and several other sites around Broken Hill in late 2017 and early 2018.

One pollution incident occurred when CMC sourced approximately 9,340 tonnes of crushed rock material from the Pinnacles Mine and arranged for the material to be transported to a site 40 kilometres south of Broken Hill.  This contravened the rules around land pollution and transportation of waste.

A separate breach by CBHH involved the transport and deposit of sand waste residues and crushed rock material to a site in Pinnacles Road, Broken Hill. CBHH did not have an environment protection licence permitting it to store this waste material at this site. 

Independent sampling and analysis of the materials also indicated elevated levels of lead in the material, beyond the levels permitted.

EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Regional Carmen Dwyer said the EPA’s investigation found that both breaches of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act were inadvertent.

“The breaches occurred, in part, due to an error in lab test results and our investigation has revealed that a fault in a machine measuring lead, under-reported the levels.

“This Enforceable Undertaking means CMC will clean-up and remediate the area where the material was delivered, and CBHH will remove and correctly dispose of the sand and waste soil residues.

The estimated costs for both the required works are in excess of $1.2 million. In addition, both companies undertake to each pay $100,000 to the Northern Broken Hill Landcare Hub greening project ($200,000 in total).

“This Enforceable Undertaking is a good environmental result which will see funds going to create a large-scale community-sustained Native Plant Propagation Nursery together with an associated Community Garden.

“This project will result in the promotion and delivery of significant environmental, social and educational benefits to the Broken Hill local community,” Ms Dwyer said.

Enforceable undertakings are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. Through an enforceable undertaking, the EPA may secure outcomes such as environmental restoration measures or contributions to environmental projects. Undertakings are enforceable by the Land and Environment Court.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm.