BLOWN: Dust allegedly from a coal mine shows bright orange in the air to the east of Jerry’s Plains.THE Department of Planning has slapped Hunter mines with thousands of dollars worth of fines for breaches of noise and blasting conditions.
It has also launched a prosecution against Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine for failing to minimise dust pollution.
The department’s actions follow sustained community calls for the department to become more proactive in enforcing mines’ conditions of consent.
The Herald has also highlighted concerns about each of the issues in recent months.
Integra Coal was fined $3000 for a 123.3 decibel blast which exceeded the 120 decibel sound pressure limit at its Camberwell mine on March 15, 2013.
The company has recently prepared a blast fume management strategy to improve its blasting practices.
The Mt Thorley Operations was fined $3000 for exceeding noise compliance limits by up to five decibels on March 13.
A Rio Tinto spokesman said the company was disappointed it had recorded a noise breach.
“We will continue to work closely with our neighbours and the NSW government as we improve the way noise is managed at Mount Thorley Warkworth mine,’’ he said.
The department also started prosecution proceedings against Warkworth in the Land and Environment Court for failing to minimise dust.
The department alleges that Warkworth failed to comply with a number of its conditions of consent in relation to minimising dust during high winds on September 5, 2012.
Warkworth is yet to enter a plea.
The Rio Tinto spokesman confirmed the court action.
“Air quality across the Hunter Valley was being affected by dry and windy weather conditions at this time and Mount Thorley Warkworth mine took a range of steps to minimise dust, including shutting down equipment and increased use of water sprays,’’ he said.
The Department of Planning’s Singleton office received 27 complaints during April, including 23 for noise, two for blasting and two for dust.
The noise complaints came primarily from Bulga residents.