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Coal mine operator fined for disgusting smell

Blast fumes NSW EPA
Blast fumes (Courtesy of NSW Environmental Protection Authority)

An energy company has been accused of operating in a rude and deplorable manner after revolting fumes escaped from one of its coal operations.

MACH Energy Australia was widely criticised for failing to contain gases that were allegedly released into the atmosphere during a controlled blast at the Mount Pleasant Coal Mine in Muswellbrook, 132km northwest of Newcastle.

‘Offensive and vile’

The proponent was blamed for not warning nearby residents of the potentially “offensive and vile” odour, resulting in several complaints from community members who claimed they suffered from the “pungent” smell on 15 June 2020.

“MACH Energy Australia failed to warn their neighbours of the potential of exposure to blast fume, and members of the community were either exposed or sought shelter to avoid the blast fume,” New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) acting director Operations Brett Nudd said in a public statement.

“This incident was predictable and preventable, and the community should not have been impacted in this way.”

Big stink

The smell was so overpowering it was reported at multiple locations beyond the mine site. Nudd blamed MACH Energy for not meeting its legal obligation to contain the noxious fumes.

“This alleged blast happened under weather conditions that resulted in blast fume going beyond the mine site and dispersing across neighbouring properties,” he said.

“Blast fumes from mine sites must be contained within the mine boundary, as they contain oxides of nitrogen that may be harmful to human health at high concentrations … the mining industry must carry out blasts so that they do not cause harm or interfere with the comfort of the community.”

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After publicly shaming MACH Energy for the stink, EPA slapped the proponent with a $15,000 fine.

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