Wollongong Coal spill sparks concerns about ‘care & maintenance’ regime

MEDIA RELEASE – 8 December  2015

The Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today said that a significant spill of coal from the Russell Vale coal mine into Bellambi Creek raises concerns about whether the ‘care and maintenance’ regime at the mine is adequate and said that the proposed expansion of the mine should be rejected.

It is understood that a dust suppression spray at the mine broke over the weekend, causing a large amount of water to saturate a coal stockpile and causing the coal to spill into Bellambi Creek.

“This incident looks like something that could have been avoided if there was adequate oversight, but now we have coal polluting Bellambi Creek that will end up in the Lagoon at Bellambi Beach,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The community have expressed their concern to the EPA about the creeks running black during rain events and the failure to divert the creeks around the mine as required, but the response from the EPA has been very ineffective.

“The Greens questions whether the ‘care and maintenance’ regime at Russell Vale coal mine is adequate and the operators should face the full force of the law if they have failed to keep the environment safe from pollution through inadequate staffing or poor practice.

“If the operators of the mine, Wollongong Coal, are unable to prevent such a spill occurring, then they should certainly not be given approval to expand the mine or build coal washeries in the future.

“With the global coal market in structural decline, the standard of care and maintenance and rehabilitation of coal mines will become increasingly important. The EPA must conduct a thorough investigation and publicise its findings to ensure pollution incidents from mothballed and closed mines do not occur.”

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