Serious Errors in Air Pollution Estimates of Coal Mine

Rio Tinto’s air pollution study of its proposed Warkworth coal mine expansion near the Hunter Valley village of Bulga has serious errors which put in doubt whether the project will comply with NSW air quality standards, according to an expert scientific assessment.

18 December 2014

The report by environmental consultants, National Integrated Creative Solutions (NICS), will be submitted by EDO NSW on behalf of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, to the Planning and Assessment Commission’s public hearing in Singleton today about the proposed Warkworth open cut coal mine expansion.

The report states there “appears to be misinterpretations” of the regulatory requirements for computer modeling and “miscalculations” of pollution levels.

“It is clear that there are still uncertainties about the assumptions made for interpreting and manipulating the results of the (computer) modeling,” the report said.

“These are very serious matters and could be potentially detrimental when determining whether the air emissions from the proposed activities would or would not comply with current NSW Air Quality criteria”.

Despite the clear trend since 2011 of increasing particulate pollution and the westerly movement of the mine towards Bulga during the proposed 14 year extension, the modelling predicts the mine would lessen air quality impacts at certain locations, the report says.

The report recommended the computer model be re-calibrated based on the real measured values, from existing air quality monitoring stations near the mine, and re-run to ensure that predicted values are as close to the measured values as possible.

The report found that Rio Tinto had not adequately addressed concerns about air quality raised by the NSW Department of Health in its submission on the mine expansion which noted that 27 properties would face “significant increases” in particulate pollution (PM10) which exceed daily and yearly air quality standards.

The NSW Department of Planning has recommended the approval of the Warkworth coal mine expansion. The PAC will deliver a report after this week’s hearing and then a separate PAC panel will decide on the coal mine expansion.

In April this year, the NSW Court of Appeal today dismissed an appeal by Rio Tinto and the NSW Government against a Land and Environment Court refusal of the mine expansion. The Land and Environment Court found the economic benefits of the coal mine did not outweigh the significant impacts on Bulga residents and the destruction of an endangered ecological community, the Warkworth Sands Woodland, and threatened animal species.

CONTACT: Jon Walter 0404647842, 02-90173915 jon.walter@edonsw.org.au