An emerging mining company unlawfully extracted water for years at its coal operation in northern New South Wales, authorities said.
Whitehaven Coal is accused of taking water without an access licence at its Maules Creek open-cut black coal mine in Boggabri, 127km northwest of Tamworth.
The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) recently charged the proponent with two alleged breaches of the Water Management Act.
The NSW Land and Environment Court will hear allegations that clean water should have been diverted from major streams at the mine but was instead captured on the site.
NRAR chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes believes this decision affected other water users and the environment during the severe drought, between the years 2016 and 2019.
“As this matter is now before the court, NRAR cannot comment further on the case,” he said in a public statement.
If Whitehaven is found guilty, the company could be ordered to pay a fine exceeding $2 million.
The proponent maintains it has already responded to NRAR’s investigation into water use, which started back in 2018.
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“Whitehaven has previously publicly addressed aspects of NRAR’s investigation, including noting the complexity of the water management system in NSW and the fact that some of the alleged non-compliances concern practices widely observed in the NSW coal mining sector,” a company spokeswoman said according to the Australian Associated Press.