Blast fume complaints fall in Upper Hunter

Blast fume complaints have fallen in the Upper Hunter after the Department of Planning and Infrastructure approved a strategy to deal with blast fumes.

The department this month finalised its approval of a Blast Fume Management Strategy (BFMS) for every open-cut mine in the Upper Hunter, with NSW Government approval.

The proposal has helped to cut the number of public complaints about blast fumes since July 2012, according to the Monthly Auditing and Compliance Activities Report.

The department asked open-cut coal mines in the Upper Hunter to prepare and present a BFMS in reaction to the public’s concerns and complaints about blasting impacts.

The strategy initiative seems to have decreased blast fume impacts. There were nine blast-related complaints for the first nine months of this financial year, compared to 20 complaints in 2011-12.

This is a 40 per cent reduction.

Since 2012, the department received only one self-report from a mine operator for a major blast fume (that is, a blast fume with a rating between three and five).

“The department expects the approved strategies and improved practices will continue to cause a decrease in the number and severity of blast fume events in the future,” the report said.

The department approved the final submitted strategy in March this year. Now all 14 mines in the Upper Hunter with a NSW Government approval have a BFMS in place.

The strategies guarantee mines have a procedure to manage blasting activities, and minimise the danger of fume events.

The strategies include taking steps to reduce water penetration into blast holes, using suitable explosives for the existing ground and weather conditions, and avoiding blasting that causes fumes to drift over close by roads and public areas.

The number of complaints regarding all mining activities fell in the Hunter Valley in September last year.

In August the number of complaints rose to 43, but the Singleton office received only 37 complaints in September.

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