EPA says dust is being reduced residents argue otherwise

The comments on our story regarding the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) report that there had been a reduction in dust emissions from coalmines in the Upper Hunter highlighted the public’s perception that such a claim is risible.

According to the EPA there has been an 19 per cent reduction in dust since they implemented their Dust Stop Pollution Reduction Program in 2012. 

They say dust emissions have been reduced by 22,000 tonnes a year and efforts to further reduce dust are continuing.

However residents living ‘cheek and jowl’ with large open cut mines say nothing has changed in recent years in fact they would argue the situation is getting worse.

One thing everyone can agree on is the fact open cut mines produce dust and on bad days they produce a lot of dust which does find its way outside the mine site and into our community.

Dust is detrimental to our health no matter its source so therefore everyone agrees, once again, on the need to minimise its existence.

In the past month the alerts from the Upper Hunter Air Quality monitors have been regular as clockwork advising residents that PM 10 particles are above national standards.

Camberwell in particular has been in the dust epicentre achieving the dubious honour of more alerts than other monitors.

So yes its good news the work by EPA is reducing dust but surely as a community we want minimum dust not simply a reduction. So how best to achieve this and what are our options – close mines, open no new mines or only allow underground operations, heavier fines for polluters, more watering or all of the above.

First up in a land of drought  we can forget about more watering unless the water being used is recycled and or cannot be used for anything else. Close mines – can’t see that happening in a hurry perhaps we may have a chance with demanding underground only but even then its a tall order. Heavier fines for polluters the government might jump at that one in an effort to boost their coffers. 

Finally the best option maybe to combine all our know how and ensure minimal land disturbance at mines, rehabilitation is up to date and best practice and blasting is strictly monitored and allowable only on the days where there is the least chance of dust dispersal.

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