North Wambo Coal Mine – A Dam Bust For Australia?

Jeremy BuckinghamThe North Wambo coal mine, a combined open-cut and underground mine 30 kilometres to the west of Singleton in the Hunter Valley region has come under serious scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Authority following a burst dam on site which could have serious negative environmental effects.

Approved only last year for a modification allowing the mine to develop an additional longwall panel, the mine is already running into trouble, which is especially concerning as the approval required tough new rules to control the environmental impact of the mine.

The most intriguing part of the whole story though is the fact that the environmental regulators are not only demanding to know how the dam wall collapsed, but also how it took an entire week for the problem to be reported.

Peabody Energy, the coal mining giant behind the mine explained how this could happen in quite simple terms…

The miner told the NSW EPA that they had only learned of the incident EARLIER THAT DAY, in a statement issued by the EPA.

So somehow no one noticed that a dam wall, with the potential to hold up to 3 million litres of sediment and waste had collapsed at this site for AN ENTIRE WEEK?

The water released from the dam is believed to be mainly mixed with soil, sand, rocks and grass with no known toxins present at this point. However it’s not currently clear just how extensive the breach was as workers could not reach the affected wall for several days due to security concerns. Also of course there’s the issue of the very late discovery of the problem.

It’s also a reminder of the dangers we face when allowing coal mining operators to operate on prime agricultural land as mentioned by Jeremy Buckingham of the Greens party.

“This shocking pollution incident highlights why the government should prohibit coal mining in good farming areas and in drinking water catchments,” Jeremy Buckingham Greens NSW mining spokesperson, said.

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