Wollongong Coal has a history of poor management of stormwater management and has demonstrated it can’t manage pollution control equipment on its Russell Vale mine site, the Environment Protection Authority has said.
The EPA has given a searing analysis of the struggling miner’s ability to meet its environmental responsibilities at the No.1 colliery, in a submission to the NSW major projects planning process which details 13 compliance activities it has undertaken against the miner.
Wollongong Coal had for several years promised to divert Bellambi Creek within its mining lease – a condition which was part of its approval to mine, designed to limit pollution downstream.
The miner now wants to drop its commitment to pipe the creek underground, and is seeking permission to replace the planned piping with an uncovered channel.
But the EPA said this would just create an “elevated risk” to the community downstream, and to the environment via the creek.
The EPA opposes this change, and delivered in its submission a list of problems Wollongong Coal has had with managing pollution from its mine.
“The root cause of many of these incidents has been moor maintenance and management by WCL of their stormwater and pollution control devices,” it said.
These included an EPA fine of $30,000 for spilling coal pollution from a stockpile into Bellambi Creek in December 2015.
Gavin Workman from the Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining group said it was “unthinkable” for the Planning Department to consider allowing Wollongong Coal to drop its long-neglected commitment on the creek.
“Wollongong Coal has an atrocious history of non-compliance, pollution and accidents,” he said.
“It’s unthinkable that the NSW Department of Planning would let Wollongong Coal get away with not fixing up Bellambi Creek.
“The pollution they have caused is already unacceptable and the company is only trying to get this change made because of lack of capital available to carry out the required works.”
The EPA said modelling by consultants Cardno showed the site would experience "significant flooding” in a major rain event.
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