More fines for coal mine

A Canterbury coal mine has been fined an additional $9750 for causing sediment to run into a waterway.

In October 2017, Bathurst Coal Limited was issued 14 infringement notices, totalling $10,500, for unauthorised sediment runoff from its mine at Bush Gully Road, Coalgate, into the Waianiwaniwa River, which ultimately flows into Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

At the time, the company was told further infringements would be issued if more unauthorised discharges of sediment took place.  An additional 13 infringement notices, totalling $9750, were issued for these non-compliances.

The second set of infringement notices was issued in December, and the fines have been paid.  All 27 infringements occurred between June and November last year, with all of the unauthorised discharges the result of development at the mine during autumn last year.  This development created significant areas of exposed soil without effective sediment and erosion controls being in place.  Primary erosion and sediment controls are now placed, with secondary controls being installed as the mine continues to develop.

Selwyn Waihora zone manager Michaela Rees said this was a very serious issue as the mine had breached the Resource Management Act 1991, and in doing so potentially affected the habitat of the region’s most threatened fish species – the Canterbury mudfish – which is also taonga to Ngāi Tahu.  However, no impact on the mudfish population has been seen.

“This left the waterways or streams vulnerable as there was inadequate protection in place to manage the risk of sediment run-off during a large rainfall event, of which there were several last year.” she said.

After each heavy rainfall during winter 2017, Environment Canterbury staff went to the mine to check whether the company was complying with its consent conditions.  They also checked whether the company had completed establishing sediment controls, including fencing, staged ponds and planting, to manage the areas exposed during development.

It was these visits, and a review of monitoring data, that led to the fines.  Details of the infringements can be found at www.ecan.govt.nz/infringements.

“We are working closely with the company and we will keep a close eye on progress,” Michaela Rees said. “If the company fails to comply again in any way, we won’t hesitate to escalate our enforcement response if necessary - our waterways must be protected.”