Environment watchdog investigates third Hunter mine

Investigation: The state’s environmental watchdog is investigating an “overflow” at Bengalla mine, the third Hunter coal mine investigation so far this year.THE state’s environmental watchdog is investigating a third Hunter coal mine for water overflow or dam collapse problems.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued an alert saying it is investigating an “overflow” at Bengalla mine near Muswellbrook, only days after reports of dam collapse investigations at Wambo and Warkworth mines in the Upper Hunter.

The EPA is yet to confirm the nature of the Bengalla incident.

Bengalla is the smallest of Rio Tinto’s three Hunter mines, and is the subject of a sale by Rio Tinto of its 40 per cent interest in the mine to New Hope Corporation for $600 million. The sale is expected to be finalised in the next few months.

Bengalla is currently involved in a major project to build a diversion of Dry Creek. The Herald has been advised a dam failure, similar to failures being investigated at Wambo and Warkworth, is not likely and an overflow from the Dry Creek construction work is a more likely reason for an “overflow” after recent heavy rain and flooding.

Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckinghamtoday saidnews of athirdEPA investigation of a serious Hunter mine water issue demonstrated “asignificant and systemic problem with the coal industry failing to implement adequate standards, resulting in serious pollution incidents”.

“Since the year beganWambo,WarkworthandBengallacoal mines in the Hunter Valley have had failures resulting in millions of litres of sediment-laden water polluting the environment,” Mr Buckingham said.

“In the second half of 2015,ClarenceandRussell Valecoal mines also had dam failures resulting in significant pollution of waterways.

“As the coal industry heads for the exit door, they are cutting costs and trashing the environment almost with impunity,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Without strong regulations and independent monitoring to prevent pollution incidents, the decline of the coal industry represents a toxic threat to the environment and community.”

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