EPA fines Tarrawonga Coal $30,000 after pollution discharge

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Tarrawonga Coal Pty Ltd $30,000 over alleged pollution of a local creek from uncontained sediment and soil from the mine.

The EPA alleges that on February 8, this year, the mine near Boggabri on the North West Slopes and Plains discharged mine sediment from a dam after heavy rain, in excess of their licence discharge limits.

The mine also allegedly failed to dewater a sediment pond within the required five-day management period after the previous rainfall event. The full design capacity of the sediment pond was therefore not available on February 8, 2020 when the site received 158.6mm of rain. This may have contributed to the volume of water and sediment that was discharged from the site, even though the design capacity of the pond was exceeded during this rainfall event.

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The dam discharges to the nearby Goonbri Creek.

The mine has been fined $15,000 for the pollution of waters and $15,000 for failing to operate plant and equipment in a proper and efficient manner.

EPA Manager Regulatory Operations Lindsay Fulloon said it was important for mines to maintain sediment dams and drainage to properly capture and treat wastewater from the mine, to protect the surrounding environment.

“This includes treating and removing water captured within sediment dams promptly so that they have capacity to capture runoff from forecast rainfall events across the year,” Mr Fulloon said.

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“Mine records indicated that de-watering of the sediment dam had not been done since May 2019, despite significant rainfall after that date.

“The storm event on February 8 this year was forecast well in advance but controls which could have protected the environment had not been maintained, including having storage capacity available in the sediment dam.

“Drains and sediment dams are designed to deal with storm runoff but need to be regularly de-silted and de-watered to preserve the designed storage capacity.

“The EPA will be working to ensure that mine water controls are maintained and operated appropriately to ensure incidents like these are avoided in the future,” Mr Fulloon said.