Coal companies respond to community audit of dust control measures: “We’re doing much less than we could to protect community health.”

Residents concerned about coal dust and its health impacts in Newcastle issued the two companies operating Newcastle’s coal terminals two weeks ago. They have now received responses from both companies, demonstrating they fall well short of World’s Best Practice and do much less than they could to minimise coal dust and protect community health.

Community groups reviewed national and international coal industry strategies and earlier this month published a ‘Best Practice Guide to Coal Dust Minimisation’. The Guide lists 103 techniques to suppress and prevent particle emissions at each stage of the coal chain from pit to port. They challenged Port Waratah Coal Services and Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group to audit their operations using the Guide.

“We asked PWCS and NCIG to release information about their strategies to minimise dust because air pollution levels in Newcastle and the Hunter are totally out of control,” said Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG) spokesperson Ms Fee Mozeley.

PWCS operates two coal terminals on Kooragang Island and in Carrington and are seeking approval for Newcastle’s fourth and largest coal terminal to export an extra 120 million tonnes per annum. The company declined to self-assess against the ‘Best Practice Guide’.

“PWCS commit to developing a comprehensive Dust Management Plan for the construction phase of their new terminal and an Environmental Operating Procedure but expect the NSW Government to assess the project without these being complete,” said Ms Mozeley.

“PWCS’ response doesn’t tell us exactly what they will do or when. They list best practice dust control measures that might be ‘considered’ or ‘implemented where appropriate’ and fail to identify best practice techniques that are not currently implemented. Local residents know that PWCS does not cover stockpiles or coal trains – two of the most significant and visible sources of coal dust pollution.”

“PWCS state that stockpile covers are ‘typical control measures’ in Dust Management Plans but they don’t currently cover stockpiles. Covering stockpiles is not even listed as a ‘potential’ measure during the operation of T4.”

“These companies are cloaking our homes with coal dust, sending our children inside with asthma attacks and shortening our lives. Being told what could ‘potentially’ be done ‘where appropriate’ is spin. We want to know exactly what these companies are doing to project community health now,” said Ms Mozeley.

NCIG issued a brief response that simply states that they apply all of the techniques listed in the Guide that are ‘applicable’ and ‘effective’ but offering no specific details.

“NCIG are clearly not aware of world’s best practice if they consider covering coal stockpiles and wagons inapplicable and ineffective,” said Ms Mozeley. “This is happening in more and more places.”

Concerned residents from Newcastle will join 250 people from coal-affected communities from around Australia from today in Kurri Kurri for the ‘Our Land, Our Water, Our Future’ gathering.

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