Resources regulator targets opal mines in latest audit

Black opal from Lightning Ridge. Image: Daniel Mekis

The New South Wales resources regulator audited more than 100 opal mines in the state this month targeting safety and environmental compliance.

Safety and environment inspectors from the department’s resources regulator and division of resources and geoscience conducted 135 onsite inspections over two days to monitor and enforce compliance with mining and safety laws.

Lightning Ridge, which is at the heart of the state’s opal industry, receives thousands of small mining claims.

Anthony Keon from the department’s resource regulator said it was the fourth compliance operation they have conducted since 2014.

“Compliance checks are routine, however given the nature and scale of opal mining operations in Lightning Ridge, a coordinated operation was again undertaken,” he said.

The audit focused particularly on mine shaft safety, mechanical and electrical safety, mineral claim conditions and rehabilitation of mineral claims.

During the audit, 40 claims were found to have environmental non-compliances while 58 were found with safety non-compliances.

The non-compliances included missing mine shaft covers, poor rehabilitation of expired claims, unguarded hoists and non-compliance mine waste material heaps.

“Titleholders were forewarned of the operation [audit] and those that were found to be non-compliant now face a range of sanctions – including written warnings, statutory directions, penalty notices, prosecution and possible cancellation of a mineral claims,” Keon added.

“Mine safety is of paramount importance – they can be tough and dangerous workplaces and our role is to make sure mine workers are safe.”

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