THE Mount Thorley Warkworth open-cut coalmine, 15 kilometres from Singleton, has been fined $3000 for dust pollution on Sunday May 13.
The penalty comes with a New South Wales Planning and Infrastructure Department warning that more dust pollution breaches were “likely to attract stronger enforcement action, including the potential for criminal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court”.
The breach follows two similar dust pollution warnings by department officials last year.
The department’s major development assessment director Chris Watson said Mount Thorley Warkworth continued to operate a dragline and excavator, which should have been stopped during May 13’s windy conditions.
The fine announcement coincides with the department’s monthly coalmine audit report and warnings this week from the department’s air quality network that air at Mount Thorley, Singleton north west and Camberwell failed to meet national daily health standards seven times on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The audit report said the department’s office received 30 complaints in April, 15 for noise, 10 for blasting, one for dust and four “minor” complaints.
The air network warnings said national standards were breached on Tuesday at 5am and 11pm at Singleton north west.
The air also failed the national health standard on Wednesday at 7am and 11pm at Mount Thorley, at 6pm and 11pm at Camberwell and 11pm at Singleton north west.
In response to the $3000 fine, Mount Thorley Warkworth operations general manager Cam Halfpenny said: “Coal and Allied regrets any instances where our mines do not meet ours and the community’s expectations.”
He said company representatives were working closely with department officials, conducting an internal investigation and would do an annual “independent” audit and review “to ensure that best practice management continues to be implemented”.
Mr Halfpenny said the company was working to improve real time air quality monitoring at Mount Thorley Warkworth and there were a number of other dust management programs underway, including developing a dust pollution reduction program, upgrading a water cart fleet and rehabilitating disturbed land areas.