Mining company Maules Creek Coal, a subsidiary of Whitehaven Coal, has been convicted and ordered to pay more than $158,000 by the Land and Environment Court following three separate events where sediment laden water escaped from the mine site during heavy rain, and spilled into Back Creek.
On two of these occasions the water that escaped from the mine site also contained polystyrene beads used in mining explosives, despite the EPA previously alerting the company to potential issues with its explosives storage.
EPA Director Regulatory Operations Dr Sandie Jones said the discharges in January and February 2020 were unacceptable because they impacted water quality in Back Creek and could have been avoided or minimised.
“Businesses like Maules Creek Coal have a responsibility not to harm the environment. The mine should have implemented sufficient erosion and sediment controls despite the large amount of rain that fell,” Dr Jones said.
“Following the incident, the EPA directed the company to undertake a significant clean-up to reduce the risk that the polystyrene beads could break down to form smaller particles or microplastics. That kind of harm to the environment can’t be allowed.”
The final penalty imposed by the Court totalled $158,750. Maules Creek Coal was also ordered to pay the EPA’s investigation and legal costs.