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Two more spills from Hunter Valley coal mines

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World Coal,

Two further mine spills have been reported to the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) from mines in the Hunter Valley as record rainfall continues to impact the state.

Warkworth wall collapse

Following a mine collapse at Peabody Energy’s Wambo mine, the EPA has said it is investigating the collapse of part of a sedimentation dam wall at Rio Tinto’s Warkworth coal mine in the Hunter Valley. It is the second dam wall collapse at the time this year after a partial collapse of the wall was reported to the EPA by the mine on 6 January.

At the time of the first collapse, the company told the EPA that the event has not “caused or threatened harm to the environment,” according to an EPA media release. The EPA was also advised that work to contain the sediment-laden water had been undertaken.

Since then, the EPA said that it had been provided with photographs that suggest that sediment-laden water containing soil and sand was still leaking from the site and that a quantity of sediment from the original incident was yet to be cleaned up.

“The EPA has requested additional information from Warkworth and will be conducting a site inspection to assess the impact,” the EPA said. “Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the EPA will consider further regulatory action.”

The EPA also said that it had ordered Rio Tinto to clean up the site to prevent further movement of the sediment both on and off the site.

Bengalla overflow

Separately, it has been reported that water had spilled over a coal mine dam at Rio Tinto’s Bengalla mine near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley.

The EPA has yet to confirm the nature of the Bengalla incident, but spokesperson for Rio Tinto said the overflow event was not a result of a dam wall collapse as at Warkworth and Wambo mines and that the company was working with the EPA to investigate the incident.

The latest spills have drawn sharp criticism from the Australian Greens with their Mining Spokesperson, Jeremy Buckingham, accusing coal mining companies of “cutting costs and trashing the environment almost with impunity”.

“Three coal mine dam failures in the Hunter […] indicates there is a systematic problem with the environmental standards being applied by the industry,” Buckingham said.

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