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Wambo mine reports dam breach

Published by
World Coal,

The New South Wales Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating an incident at Peabody Energy’s Wambo coal mine in the Hunter Valley region. The incident resulted in a portion of a dam wall collapsing, discharging laden rainwater to the environment.

“Communities across the Hunter and Mid-North Coast regions have just experienced record rainfall […] While this is a factor to consider, the EPA’s investigation will also examine how the dam, which was used as a sediment control measure, is managed, maintained and monitored,” the EPA North Director, Gary Davey, in a statement.

The EPA was informed of the incident on Monday 11 January when the mine reported it to the Environment Line. It is not known how long before that the wall collapsed or how much material may have left the site – a fact highlighted by the EPA as cause for concern.

“The EPA is […] concerned that it took nearly a week to discover the problem and report it,” Davey said. “An assessment of the monitoring systems currently in place at the mine will form part of our investigation,” adding that it was “vital” for environmental protection licence holders to have early warning processes in place so that events such as a dam breach can be responded to quickly.

Peabody acquired the Wambo mine in 2006. It is a combined opencast and underground operation, producing 7.2 million t of thermal and PCI coal for export and domestic markets in 2014, according to the company website. Last year, an extension to the underground mine was granted by the New South Wales Departments of Planning and Environment, allowing the mine to develop three new longwall panals.

“The EPA will be carrying out a thorough investigation of the incident and has also requested a full incident report from Wambo Coal,” Davey concluded, adding that any failure of the mine to meet its responsibilities under environmental legislation may result in further regulatory action from the EPA.

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