Maules Creek Coal Mine directed to suspend blasting
Blasting at the Maules Creek Coal Mine near Narrabri has been suspended and will be restricted and subject to additional strict requirements to protect the local environment and human health.
NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said the EPA was investigating seven blasts from the mine alleged to have generated uncontained and potential toxic fumes, between 1 October 2021 and 11 November 2021.
“We received four reports from community members who observed dark orange/red gas clouds at the mine, indicating that blasting occurring at Maules Creek Coal Mine may have resulted in the emission of gaseous oxides of nitrogen (NOx),” Ms Dwyer said.
“NOx gases generated from post blast fumes is highly toxic when present at sufficient concentrations and has the potential to cause serious illness to humans and local environment.
“The generation of uncontained NOx emissions that might reach the mine’s community member neighbours, is unacceptable.
“NOx emissions from blasting can be effectively minimised or avoided with the proper design and management practices in place.”
The EPA is taking decisive action by issuing a Prevention Notice following alleged multiple breaches of Maules Creek Coal Mine’s licence conditions across several compliance matters.
The EPA’s Prevention Notice requires blasting practices at the mine to be reviewed by an independent blasting expert before the restrictions are removed.It will also restrict the number of blasts that can take place while the Notice is in force.
Blasts fired while the Notice is in force will be subject to strict controls and approvals processes which aim to minimise NOx emissions as much as possible to protect human health and the environment.
Blasts requested while the Notice is in force must be the subject of an interim report prepared by the independent expert. This interim report must contain appropriate additional mitigation measures and other details to meet with the EPA’s satisfaction, before the EPA will issue written confirmation that the blast may proceed.
To view the Prevention Notice, visit the EPA’s Public Register at: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/licensing-and-regulation/public-registers.
Maules Creek Coal Mine Pty Ltd is part of the Whitehaven Group of companies. One blast will be permitted to proceed as it has already been set and may create a safety risk if not detonated.
The community plays an important role in helping to monitor air pollution activities. Anyone with concern or knowledge of blasts and unexplained emissions in their local area should contact the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.