Tonnes of coal fines spill into Wollangambe River

Investigations are continuing after a coal wall collapse at Centennial Coal’s Clarence Colliery spilled into part of the Wollangambe River last week. 

The Environment Protection Authority says it was focused on determining the extent of environmental damage, and getting the clean-up underway.

“This is a serious environmental incident with tonnes of coal fines material estimated to have left the site and entered the surrounding environment,” EPA Director South, Gary Whytcross, said.

“The environmental impacts of this incident are the focus of our actions at the moment, with two EPA officers and scientists from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) on site and undertaking various sampling.

“The Wollangambe River is our greatest concern and determining the impacts to the river is a priority.”

Centennial Coal said the incident, which ocurred on July 2, involved the overflow of material from a holding cell in the reject emplacement area.

“The site has now been stabilised and the spill contained,” the company said in a statement last week.

“Our immediate priority is to minimise any impact to the environment, establishing how and why this incident has occurred will be part of an extensive investigation.”

Clean-up activities are under way, but expected to take several weeks.

The Nature Conservation Council has labelled the incident an environmental tragedy.

"Coal waste dumps usually only collapse after heavy rain but this incident has occurred in fair weather, which demonstrates that the design of this dump was clearly flawed," Nature Conservation Council Campaigns Director Daisy Barham said.

"This raises the prospect of more collapses if something is not done to shore it up." 

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