Moolarben Coal was fined $105,000 by the Land and Environment Court on Friday for an incident dating back to June 2009.
The coal operation will foot a bill totalling $166,632 including legal and investigation costs and will publish details of the offence in the Sydney Morning Herald and Mudgee Guardian.
About three years ago the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) received reports of muddy water flowing into Bora Creek on Moolarben Coal land and subsequently entering the Golburn River.
The EPA investigated the Moolarben Coal land in response to these complaints and found the company had cleared vegetation and conducted earthworks on 53 hectares of the land but failed to implement appropriate erosion and sediment controls to prevent runoff entering nearby waterways.
Environment Protection Authority acting chief environmental regulator, Mark Gifford, said the fine reflected the mine’s lack of regard for the environment in this instance.
“Having the right environmental controls in place is essential in operations such as this,” he said.
“Had Moolarben had adequate sediment and erosion controls in place, this incident simply would not have happened.”
These preventative measures minimise the likelihood of a similar event occurring again.
Justice Malcolm Craig said in his judgment the offence “gave rise to the potential for serious environmental harm”.
He also found there were practical measures available to Moolarben Coal to prevent harm and the company was well aware of what those measures were.
A statement from Moolarben accepting the ruling said the company regretted the situation and had taken measures to prevent its recurrence.
“Moolarben Coal deeply regrets the discharge event that occurred in June 2009 during a period of very heavy rainfall and while the mine was under the control of the mine’s previous owner Felix Resources,” the company’s spokesman wrote.
“Since then significant improvements and preventative measures have been undertaken on the mine site to manage water flow and storage.
“These preventative measures minimise the likelihood of a similar event occurring again.
“Moolarben also has on site a team of six environmental scientists who monitor conditions within the mine on a daily basis.”
The company emphasised that the Agreed Statement of Facts’ between the Environment Protection Authority and Moolarben Coal Operations said there had been no impact on native fish as a result of the overflow, and that the actual harm occasioned by the four discharges was minimal and left no long-term effects