Whitehaven coal and its many subsidiary companies are repeat offenders who repeatedly break the law without concern for the impacts on water resources, the environment or affected communities.
In the last 10 years Whitehaven has been found guilty or investigated for breaches of the law on 35 occasions, many of them including multiple offences. They have been prosecuted numerous times and have incurred $1,497,500 in penalties to date.
Offences including stealing 1 billion litres of water without a licence during the worst drought on record at the Maules Creek Coal mine, polluting waterways, breaching noise constraints, clearing illegally and serious workplace health and safety failures.
Their shameful record is evidence that they are not fit and proper to hold a licence to operate coal mines in NSW.
Table 1: A decade of incidents, fines and breaches of the law by Whitehaven coal
Agreement with NRAR to dismantle illegal dam and build water management structures in keeping
with mine approval
By the EPA, for burying waste tyres on site without being licenced to do so
Maules Creek, Tarrawonga and Werris
Eight breaches of exploration licence related to clearing bushland without approval. Convicted.
$372,500 in fines3
NSW Resources Regulator Penalty Notice for erosion of emplacement area causing pollution
Uncontrolled water discharge
NSW Resources Regulator caution for not displaying plans
Department of Planning warning for failing to identify and protect a cultural heritage site
Workplace health and safety submission by Resources regulator over serious WHS incident
$800,000 plus costs
Pollution of a local creek
Overflow of sediment dam
South East Forest Rescue launch legal action for WHC failing to secure necessary biodiversity offsets when clearing endangered woodlands
Discontinued after approval varied.
Clean up notice11
Release of polystyrene balls into a local water way
EPA penalty notice for noise exceeded noise limits
Failing to seek consent for construction of two water pipelines
Two penalty notices issue for the carrying out of exploration activities without approval
NRAR and Dept Planning investigating construction of a water pipeline not included in approval
NRAR investigating whether mine is causing groundwater loss to local farmers
Issued by Resources Regulator prohibiting the use of vehicles following a dangerous incident
Natural Resources Access Regulator finds Whitehaven has taken over 3 billion litres of surface water illegally over four years
Guilty plea. Sentence pending
Tarrawonga and Rocglen
Suspension of exploration licence for unlawful clearing of bushland for access tracks
Failure to minimise dust, resulting clouds from stock pile
Clean up Notice18
Dumping combustible canisters improperly, resulting in fires breaking out at Narrabri Council’s rubbish dump
Blast fume left site and drifted over neighbouring
Blast exceeded the airblast overpressure criteria
Sound power levels of equipment exceeded those
specified in the Noise management Plan
Failing to minimise dust pollution from truck
movements on haul roads
From DPIE for “failure to undertake annual road noise monitoring for the 2017 calendar year”
Failure regarding implementation of the Blast management plan.
Failure regarding implementation of the Noise Management Plan
Penalty notice 25
Failing to provide the government with information and records during the blast investigation27
2 penalty notices 26
Failure to implement proper weed and feral animal control as per Biodiversity Management Plan
Maules Creek and Tarrawonga
Disturbing and Aboriginal artefact
Mining more coal than licence allows
In response to action by Maules Creek Community Council Whitehaven gave an undertaking to the Land and Environment Court not to clear forest habitat during sensitive seasons for wildlife and changed its Biodiversity Management Plan to reinstate this commitment.30
4 penalty notices31
Polluting waters and breaching its environment protection licences in November 2011 and January 2012
Narrabri Underground and Tarrawonga
1 Pers comm from the EPA. Investigation report currently being sought under GIPA.
2 https://www.resourcesregulator.nsw.gov.au/ data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1248567/Prosecution- proceedings-commenced-against-Narrabri-Coal-Pty-Ltd-and-Narrabri-Coal-Operations.pdf
3 Resources Regulator media release 16 August 2021
https://www.resourcesregulator.nsw.gov.au/ data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1329254/Narrabri-Coal-Pty-Ltd- and-Narrabri-Coal-Operations-Pty-Ltd-convicted-and-fined-for-mining-offences.pdf
5 EPA media Release https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2020/epamedia201007-failure-to- maintain-storm-water-controls-costs-werris-creek-mine-
13 Department of Planning statement: https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Assess-and-Regulate/About- compliance/Inspections-and-enforcements/February-2020-formal-enforcements/Penalty-Notice-issued-to- Aston-Coal-2
14 Resources Regulator media release: https://resourcesandgeoscience.nsw.gov.au/about- us/news/2019/prohibition-notice-issued-to-maules-creek-open-cut-coal-mine
15 NRAR media release: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/natural-resources-access-regulator/nrar-news/nsw- water-regulator-concludes-investigations-into-maules-creek-coal-mine
16 Resources Regulator suspension notice:
17 EPA media release: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2019/epamedia190625
18 EPA clean up notice: https://apps.epa.nsw.gov.au/prpoeoapp/ViewPOEONotice.aspx?DOCID=- 1&SYSUID=1&LICID=1578807
19 Part of an enforceable undertaking. Details here: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media- releases/2020/epamedia200428-narrabri-coal-to-pay-$120000-after-mine-waste-caused-landfill
20 EPA media release: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2019/epamedia190320-whitehaven- coal-mining-ltd-convicted-and-fined-$38500-by-court
21 Department of Planning media release: https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Assess-and-Regulate/About- compliance/Inspections-and-enforcements/March-2019-formal-enforcements/Penalty-Notice-issued-to- Werris-Creek-Coal-Pty-Ltd
23 This caution is cited in Rocglen Annual Review 2018.
24 Referred to the Tarrawonga Annual Review 2018.
25 EPA media release: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/nePws/media-releases/2017/epamedia17030801
26 Department of Planning media release: https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/-/media/Files/DPE/Media- Releases/2015/August/26082015-Miners-fined-for-environmental-breaches.pdf
27 EPA media release: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2015/epamedia15070603
28 See Independent Environmental Audit 2017. Available here: http://www.whitehavencoal.com.au/sustainability/environmental-management/narrabri-mine/
29 EPA media release: https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/2014/epamedia14120902
30 For details see a summary of this case from the Environmental Defenders Office https://www.edonsw.org.au/maules_creek_community_council_v_whitehaven_coal