Coal mining in NSW
There is growing community concern about the impacts on health and amenity associated with particulate matter (PM) emissions from coal mining in NSW.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has undertaken a range of initiatives and actions in relation to the management of PM emissions from coal mines.
Inter-agency coal mine compliance audit
The EPA has maintained a strong regulatory focus on coal mines through a compliance audit program.
In late August 2010, it commenced a joint compliance audit program on managing PM emissions from coal mines in partnership with the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services.
The objective of the program was to assess the level of compliance with the requirements to manage fugitive PM emissions contained in statutory instruments issued by each of the three agencies and to encourage improved environmental performance with reference to best management practice.
A total of nine coal mines were audited (seven in the Hunter Valley and one each in the Gunnedah and Western coal fields).
Download the audit report: Environmental compliance and performance report - Management of dust from coal mines (10994coalminedust.pdf; 1.2 MB)
NSW coal mining benchmarking study: International best practice measures to prevent and/or minimise emissions of particulate matter from coal mining
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) commissioned Katestone Environmental to review coal mining activities in the Greater Metropolitan Region (GMR) of NSW. The scope of the study was to:
Identify the major sources of PM emissions from coal mines (i.e. TSP, PM10 and PM2.5) and rank them in descending order of significance for offsite impacts.
Identify current operational practices and emission controls for minimising PM emissions from coal mining.
Review international best practice measures to prevent and/or minimise PM emissions from all activities associated with NSW coal mines, including land rehabilitation.
Compare international best practice measures to prevent and/or minimise PM emissions with those currently used at NSW coal mines.
Recommend the adoption of international best practice measures that could be practicably implemented in NSW at existing and proposed coal mines.
Estimate the likely reduction in PM emissions associated with adopting each international best practice measure at NSW coal mines.
Estimate the costs associated with adopting each international best practice measure at NSW coal mines.
The following information was used to establish current techniques for controlling the emissions of PM from coal mines in the GMR:
OEH 2009 industrial survey, where 100% of all premises surveyed provided responses.
Katestone Environmental coal mine surveys in July/August 2010 and February/March 2011. Fifty nine premises provided responses, representing 93% and 91% of coal production and PM10 emissions in the GMR, respectively.
Katestone Environmental coal mine site visits to 13 mines in 2010.
Documents published by coal mines such as Annual Environment Management Reports (AEMR), Environmental Management Plans (EMP) and Environmental Management Systems (EMS).
While every effort was made to accurately describe existing practices to minimise PM emissions using information provided by individual coal mines through various surveys, site visits and publicly available documents, some of the industry information provided may contain inaccuracies.
Download the report: NSW Coal Mining Benchmarking Study: International Best Practice Measures to Prevent and/or Minimise Emissions of Particulate Matter from Coal Mining (KE1006953volume I.pdf; 4.5 MB) and appendices (KE1006953volumeII.pdf; 2.3 MB)
One of the key recommendations of the Katestone report is that each mine should carry out a site-specific determination of best management practice.
The Dust Stop program aims to ensure that the most reasonable and feasible particulate control options are implemented by each coal mine. Under this program, all coal mines in NSW have six months to prepare a report that compares their current operation with international best practice. Mines are also required to report on the practicability of implementing each best practice measure. For any measures found to be practicable, each mine is required to provide a timetable for implementation.
The Dust Stop program is being implemented through pollution-reduction programs attached to each coal mine licence. Copies of each coal mine licence are available on the public register. The pollution-reduction program refers to a guideline that specifies the details that are required in each report.
Pollution reduction programs were issued to the first group of mines in August 2011. The first group of mines was selected to represent a cross-section of mine types in various locations throughout NSW.
Once complete, copies of each report will be available on the mine’s website.
Upper Hunter Valley open cut coal mine Interim Dust Assessment Handbook
The EPA, in consultation with the mining industry and Department of Planning and Infrastructure, has developed an Interim Dust Assessment Handbook to assist mine operators in the Hunter Valley and to improve air quality for communities.
The Interim Handbook is designed for use by:
The handbook is a visual tool, containing a series of photographs that identify when to consider operational changes to minimise or reduce dust. It also assists in identifying whether mining activities are being conducted in a proper and efficient manner. In addition, the Handbook lists a series of factors to consider in assessing whether operational changes are required.
The Interim Handbook applies to vehicles on haul roads and to drilling rigs. It may be updated to cover other mining activities in the future.
The Interim Handbook is a ‘glove-box’ sized document made of durable materials to withstand day to day use in the mining environment.
Copies of this publication can be purchased from the NSW Government Online Bookshop at www.shop.nsw.gov.au or by calling the EPA’s Environment Line on 131 555.
Upper Hunter air quality monitoring network
In response to community concerns about the cumulative health effects of particle emissions from coal mining and power generation on regional communities in the Upper Hunter, the NSW Government committed to providing a reliable ambient regional air quality monitoring network in this region.
The new network was launched by the Minister for the Environment on 9 December 2010.
EPA air quality data is available from the network in real-time.
Review of Upper Hunter air quality monitoring data
To assist NSW Health review community concerns that air pollutants from coal mining and power generation in the Upper Hunter are impacting on health, OEH prepared a compendium which presents air quality monitoring data from industry monitoring sites for the period 2005-09.
Download the report: Compendium of Upper Hunter ambient air quality monitoring data (UpperHunterAirQualityData.pdf; 2.3 MB)
OEH report on the chemical and ecotoxicology assessment of the discharge waters from West Cliff Mine
To help validate the information previously provided by BHP under recent pollution reduction programs and to inform future strategies to manage the discharge of waters from the BHP-owned West Cliff Colliery mine site into Brennans Creek, the EPA conducted independent water sample testing along Brennans Creek and the Georges River.
Sampling of mine water discharged from West Cliff mine to Brennans Creek and the Georges River was undertaken at four sites over a 6-week period between May and June 2012. These samples were then chemically analysed and ecotoxicologically tested by the Office of Environment and Heritage.
The following OEH report, Chemical and Ecotoxicology Assessment of the Discharge Waters from West Cliff Mine, was completed for the EPA on Friday 31 August 2012. The report recommends further independent chemical modelling be undertaken on the current data to better interpret the ecotoxic effects and assist in setting appropriate discharge limits. This work is now underway.
For more information about the report, contact the Environment Line on 131 555.
Page last updated: 04 April 2013