Air-quality monitoring recommended for state's mines

The public should have access to air-quality data from all NSW mine sites amid concerns about the facilities' impacts on health and the environment, an inquiry has found.

The recommendation was one of a series from a state upper-house inquiry into the impacts of heavy-metal mining.

The probe on Friday delivered a report calling for a review of clean-air regulations.

It heard concerns from residents living near the Cadia gold mine, near Orange, whose former operator has admitted to breaching environmental laws.

Cadia was previously owned by Australia's biggest goldminer, Newcrest, which was last year fined the maximum-allowable penalty of $15,000 for failing to maintain effective coverage of a dust suppressant at two of its facilities.

The firm has also pleaded guilty to several other offences relating to excess solid-particle emissions at multiple points between November 2021 and May this year.

Greens MP Amanda Cohn
Greens MP Amanda Cohn said large sections of evidence were excluded from the final report.

The inquiry found in many cases the maximum penalty for breaches of environmental laws was inadequate and could fail to act as a deterrent to large companies.

It said the state government should consider requiring publicly accessible air-quality monitoring to be available at all mining operations in NSW and for that mandate to be included in any planning approvals.

The government is due to deliver a response by mid-March.

Inquiry chair and Greens MP Amanda Cohn delivered a dissenting statement, saying large sections of evidence were excluded from the final report, produced by a government and opposition-dominated committee.

“The finding that the regulatory bodies responsible for mining projects and the detailed frameworks they administer ‘are fundamentally sound’ goes against the vast majority of the detailed and convincing evidence the committee received," she said.

The seven-person committee that oversaw the inquiry includes three Labor, two coalition and two Greens MPs.

The report noted gold, silver, lead and zinc mining carried environmental risks but they presented significant export opportunities, as well as the potential to support domestic processing and manufacturing.

"Metals and minerals mining is of particular importance for the transition to net zero and for Australia’s sovereign capability," it said, while also noting mining's contribution to economic output, taxes and employment.

The report added the Environment Protection Authority operated under regulations that "generally (included) a strong toolkit with which to regulate pollution incidents".

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