Revealed: NSW taxpayers missing out on $14M per annum as coal mines pollute for free

Published: March 23, 2016

Lock the Gate Alliance has this morning released a report which calculates that NSW taxpayers are losing out on $14M each year because the coal mining industry is allowed to pollute for free.

The report – titled ‘Freeloaders: Air and Water Pollution from Coal Mines in NSW’ - is the first ever to compare the total pollution discharged by coal miners for free with the costs borne by other industries, who are forced to pay under the NSW load-based licensing scheme.

The report analyses data from the 2013/2014 National Pollutant Inventory, and found that:

  • The coal mining industry dumped 26,894kg of heavy metals and other pollutants into streams and rivers, including large volumes of dangerous substances like arsenic and lead.
  • The coal mining industry emitted 122,819 tonnes of dangerous coal dust (in the form of particle pollution) and 77,570 tonnes of other airborne pollutants, including arsenic, volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde.

The coal mining industry is not subject to the load-based licensing scheme which applies to other industries, including electricity generation and coal seam gas drilling.  If it was, the report estimates the volume of pollutants they are discharging would cost them $14 million per year.

The worst polluting coal mines in the state are BHP’s Mount Arthur, Peabody’s Wilpinjong, Glencore’s Ravensworth and Rio Tinto’s Hunter Valley Operations. The report calculates that they would all be required to pay at least $1 million per annum each if they were subject to the same polluter pays laws as other industries.

 “In NSW, coal miners are dumping 26,894kg of heavy metals in our waterways and choking our air with almost 200,000 tonnes of dangerous pollutants – without paying one red cent.

“The large volumes of dangerous pollutants like arsenic being discharged into both our air and our waterways, should be enough to raise alarm bells.

“We’re calling on the NSW Government to step in urgently and make the coal polluters pay. The $14 million the coal companies are dodging each year should be available to spend on schools and hospitals.

Mick Fetch from Wollar knows all too well how bad the pollution from coal mines can be.

“The Wilpinjong coal mine near my home town of Wollar is among the worst offenders for air pollution, and it’s not just dust, but harmful chemicals like lead and sulphur that we’re breathing.

“Their coal stockpiles catch fire, and we’re down wind and cop the lot. If the EPA made them pay for their pollution, maybe they’d take our complaints more seriously and put better controls in place, so we can all breathe again.”

“All we’re asking for is that the pollution schemes that apply to other industries like coal seam gas and power generation are applied to coal too. That way, we could pay for some more health services, and it won’t be always the public footing the bill for the damage the mining industry does.” 

To read the report, click here

To help the community at Wollar fight the further expansion of Wilpinjon mine, click here

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