EPA fines coal company $30K for alleged water pollution offences


The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Mount Thorley Warkworth a total of $30,000 for separate alleged water pollution offences at its Hunter Valley open cut coal pits in January 2021.

The EPA has issued one $15,000 penalty notice to Mount Thorley Operations Pty Limited for discharging saline and sediment laden water from an unlicenced point on 5 January 2021. During a period of heavy rainfall, untreated mine water was unlawfully discharged into natural drainage lines leading to Longford Creek, a tributary of Wollombi Brook and the Hunter River.

A second penalty notice for $15,000 has been issued to Warkworth Mining Limited for a similar unlicenced discharge on 4 January 2021. This discharge also happened during heavy rainfall when untreated mine water was released offsite into natural drainage lines leading to Loders Creek, a tributary of the Hunter River.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Adam Gilligan said both incidents had the potential to cause environmental harm.

“Sampling conducted by Mount Thorley Warkworth at the time showed elevated levels of pH in the water. It also showed increased salinity and sediment concentration. This can cause environmental harm to the surrounding creeks and rivers in the local community, including the Hunter River.”

“These fines should serve as a reminder to industry that environmental incidents such as this can come at a cost, and preventing such incidents makes good business sense.”

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, licence conditions, notices and directions, mandatory audits, legally binding pollution reduction programs, enforceable undertakings and prosecutions.

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