Whitehaven takes action on Maules Creek dust after independent review ordered by EPA

WHITEHAVEN will take action to reduce the amount of dust its Maules Creek coal mine produces following an independent review ordered by the state’s environmental watchdog.

The dust produced by the mine has been a growing issue for nearby residents, with a number of environmental breaches recorded in the mine’s annual report relating to dust pollution or air monitoring.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) said it commissioned the review following concerns raised by the community. 

“The study found that the control and management of dust was compliant with licence and project approval conditions and generally consistent with best practice, however some improvements could be made to further reduce dust emissions,” EPA northern regional director Adam Gilligan said.

Dust created by the wheels of vehicles moving materials was the most significant source of emissions, the review found. Other key sources included wind erosion, dozer use and truck loading/dumping.

A Whitehaven spokesperson said it welcomed the independent finding that its control and management of dust at Maules Creek was “compliant with licence and project approval conditions, and generally consistent with best practice”.

The EPA review found the company’s management of dust from blasting, drilling and bulldozing was “generally consistent with best practice”.

The management of dust from loading trucks and vehicles involved with haulage “includes some best practice measures”, but Whitehaven’s control of dust emissions from rail wagons was “not consistent with best practice”, the review found. “While improving this aspect of the mine’s operations will not provide a material benefit for the community living to the north of the mine, some benefits would be achieved for residents along the rail network.” 

Whitehaven’s spokesperson said the company was committed to looking at additional controls to minimise dust from the loading and dumping of overburden and coal. It will look at what other similar-sized mines are doing to see if additional measures can be implemented.

Whitehaven will also look at expanding the use of chemical dust suppressants in conjunction with water carts to control and minimise dust from haul roads.

The Department of Planning and Environment and the EPA will review the company’s progress on “the implementation of the actions”.  “Both agencies are liaising with Whitehaven Coal to identify and implement improvements that can be made to dust control measures to address the findings of the report,” Mr Gilligan said.