Mine war explodes - EPA launches probe after residents claim mine blasts 'illegal'

THE state’s peak environmental watchdog is investigating claims recent blasting at Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek coalmine shook the foundations of surrounding homes.

Several residents have made complaints to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) about the magnitude of explosions felt in the district just before 10.30am on June 17.

Sources have told The Leader that the force of the blasts rocked their houses and farm infrastructure and caused panicked livestock to scatter.

A spokesman for the EPA said it was investigating the incident after three residents rang its reporting hotline to express their concerns over the explosions.

Whitehaven Coal’s contractor is employing blasting in the construction of a rail spur that it will use to transport coal once its $767 million mine is operational early next year.

The company has approval to conduct a “single-blast event” – which may comprise a number of individual blasts – no more than four times a week on average, according to its blast management plan.

Maules Creek resident Roselyn Druce, who has been campaigning vigorously against the mine, said the power of the explosions had taken her completely by surprise.

“It shook my house,” she said. “The issue with this construction blasting is they’re supposed to be small blasts, but this, to me, wasn’t a small blast.

“The ground vibration (once production blasting commences) will be a big issue with our buildings and infrastructure around the place.”

In a statement, the EPA said officers conducted a site inspection the day after the blast and had requested a “detailed incident report from the company”.

“As part of the investigation our officers will be considering all the available information and evidence before deciding whether there are grounds for regulatory action,” the spokesman said.

It is not the first time blasting at a local Whitehaven Coal mine has come under scrutiny, with some Werris Creek residents considering launching a class action against the company.

A Whitehaven Coal spokesman said monitoring data indicated the impacts of the “single- blast event” on June 17 were “well below” its allowable limits.

“The EPA has advised us that a handful of residents rang the agency to inquire about the nature of the blasting,” the spokesman said.

“We have co-operated with the EPA in making available relevant blasting data but, again, the noise created by the blast was well within the allowable margin.

“If the noise did alarm or unsettle anyone, we hope to ensure that this reaction is not repeated in future.”

The spokesman said Whitehaven Coal was “totally committed” to minimising the impact of blasting and had invited residents to a meeting later this month to discuss the issue.


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