On 18 March 2019 Whitehaven Coal Mining Limited was convicted and fined $38,500 for a fume incident at Rocglen Mine near Gunnedah, New South Wales in 2016.
Whitehaven Coal Mining Limited (“WCM”) has been convicted and fined $38,500 by the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales of an offence against s 64 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 for breaching a condition of its Environment Protection Licence (“EPL”), in that it failed to carry out its licenced activity in a competent manner.
The charge related to a blast fume at WCM’s Rocglen Mine at Gunnedah in the State’s north east that left the mine site and passed over adjoining farmland on 10 August 2016.
WCM conducted the blast using explosive products that did not reduce the risk of blast fume generation to the greatest possible extent, failed to undertake a written risk assessment prior to the blast, departed from provisions contained in its internal blast management plans, and some blast holes were overloaded with explosive.
The blast resulted in a fume event. Such fumes typically include gases known as oxides of nitrogen (or NOx gases). The mixture of potentially harmful post-blast gases was carried from the mine site over neighbouring farmland which housed work sheds. WCM did not notify the neighbouring property that a fume cloud had left the mine. No persons or animals were exposed to the blast fume.
Like all holders of an EPL issued by the Environment Protection Authority (“the EPA”), WCM was required to undertake its mining operations in a competent manner. It failed to do so.
On 18 March 2019 the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales convicted WCM and ordered it to:
(1) pay a monetary penalty of $38,500;
(2) pay the EPA’s legal costs;
(3) place a notice in various national, State and regional news publications advising of the commission of the offence, and to pay for the placement of those notices; and
(4) place a notice on Whitehaven Coal Limited’s (the parent company of WCM) website in the “Company News” section advising of WCM’s commission of the offence.