A gold mine in southern NSW has been ordered to pay $200,000 after it was found guilty of polluting nearby creeks.
Both Spring and Majors Creeks were polluted by muddy water three times last year during the construction of the $90 million Dargues gold mine near Braidwood.
Big Island Mining pleaded guilty in the NSW Land and Environment Court to polluting the creeks in March and February 2013 during and after torrential rain.
Majors Creek supplies water to rural properties and flows into Araluen Creek, which is a tributary of the Deua River.
The Eurobodalla shire receives 60 per cent of its water supply from the Deua River catchment.
The Environment Protection Authority’s southern region director Gary Whytcross said measures should have been taken by the company to avoid pollution from the mine site.
“Had the correct measures been implemented there would have been less impact on Majors Creek and the downstream water users,” Whytcross said.
“The EPA hopes this judgment sends a clear message to other companies that controls must be planned and implemented prior to construction, to ensure water pollution does not occur.”
The court found the miner failed to install adequate sediment and erosion controls, and Big Island Mining must pay $196,000 in penalties and costs.
$103,000 will be used for environmental work being carried out in the Upper Deua River catchment, while $93,000 will go to the EPA for legal and investigation costs.
Justice Pain said it was concerning the incident occurred during the first two weeks of construction at the site.
"As the operator of a gold mine of this size, the defendant should have ensured it had sufficient expertise to confirm that its project approval was being complied with, including where a contractor selected for its particular skills was being employed," she said.
"That obligation included the ability to ensure adequate implementation of controls on the ground."
Director of Big Island Mining, Andrew McIlwain, said the company was sorry the incident occurred.
"It's not something that we're particularly proud of… we've moved forward as quickly as we can and we'll get on now with what we need to do with the developing the project," McIlwain said.
Image: Canberra Times