EPA investigates blast fumes at Maules Creek

Whitehaven Coal has received a prevention notice from the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in relation to blasting activities and the risk of blast fumes at its Maules Creek mine.

The notice prevents unrestricted blasting activity at the site pending an investigation by an independent expert and the implementation of corrective actions to minimise the risk of blast fume.

The independent expert has been appointed and commenced work.

Maules Creek is permitted to continue blasting activity on an interim basis in accordance with the recommendations of the independent expert as approved by the EPA.

The notice is in response to an increase in fume events at Maules Creek since October 1, 2021, when Whitehaven changed its explosives supplier.

According to Whitehaven, there is no suggestion the fume events in question resulted in harm to human safety.

“Whitehaven has been working closely with its new supplier on a blasting procedure and design improvement plan for a number of weeks,” the company stated.

The notice acknowledges there have been very few visible blast fume events from the many hundreds of blasts conducted at the site since it began operating in 2014.

“Whitehaven will continue to cooperate fully with the EPA on this matter, sharing detailed information on technical aspects and mitigation measures,” the company said in a statement.

The company confirms production guidance at Maules Creek for the 2022 financial year is unchanged.

At the Maules Creek coal mine, Whitehaven recently achieved a full-year record of 12.7 million tonnes of run-of-mine production – well above original targets of 11.3 – 12 million tonnes.

Maules Creek produces some of the highest quality high energy thermal coal in Australia and has been in operation since 2015.​​

The mine has coal reserves to support 40 years of production.

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