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"Cadia appears to be falling well short of our expectations": Watchdog's second Newcrest probe

May 21, 2023

Dust from the mine earlier this year. Cadia Community Sustainability Network.

By Peter Holmes

The Environmental Protection Authority has launched a second investigation into Newcrest's Cadia Valley Mine over its ongoing issues with air quality.

Cadia has been issued with a draft pollution Prevention Notice and a draft licence variation regarding the management of emissions of dust and other pollutants.

The EPA has also written to the NSW Chief Health Officer requesting a full health risk analysis to determine if mine dust is impacting the health of the community.

NSW EPA CEO Tony Chappel said Australian industries have both moral and legal obligations to limit their impact on communities.

“Everyone in NSW has a right to clean air no matter where they live,” he said in a statement.

"Industry has strict obligations to meet clean air standards and currently Cadia appears to be falling well short of our expectations."

Chappel said that last week the EPA received new evidence from the community "to suggest actions by the mine to reduce dust pollution have not been effective".

“Understandably, this community needs answers and so too does the EPA. As part of the notices, we are requiring immediate re-testing of the mine’s main vent and an extension of the ambient air sampling network to deliver expanded air monitoring."

A community drop-in session is on tomorrow (Tuesday May 23, 2023) from 10am - 1pm at the Millthorpe Museum.

On March 7, 2023, the Cadia Community Sustainability Network (CCSN), which represents landholders impacted the mine, said that it had, in conjunction with associate professor Dr Ian Wright from University of Western Sydney, "recently identified some heavy metal contamination, particularly in the bottom of residential rainwater tanks around the district".

"The tests results and other information was provided to the EPA and NSW Health. NSW Health will retest the CCSN data to determine the next steps for our community," CCSN stated.

"We understand this is worrying information for residents. It is worth noting that some testing has occurred on kitchen taps of people with impacted tanks, and residues remain very low, given this contamination tends to sink to the bottom of tanks."

Today the EPA responded.

"The draft licence variation formalises existing and additional actions to:

  • Finalise an independent health risk assessment with NSW Health;

  • Deploy a smart sensing network of real-time monitoring, in consultation with the community;

  • Finalise and release a report examining dust fingerprinting, to better identify the contributions of dust at locations identified by the local community, with analysis undertaken by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO);

  • Engage a specialist to interpret results from lead isotope testing to identify the source/s of lead found in water tank sludge;

  • Develop an effective sampling methodology for vent shafts within the mine operations area;

  • Offer a service to the local community for household water tank cleaning and filling

  • Implement additional dust mitigation works."

CCSN said it "welcomes the EPA's move to investigate our concerns about heavy metal contamination of tank water around our region. This is a solid start to ensuring our homes and families are safe, with plenty more to be done."

In March 2023, testing carried out by NSW Health found contaminants in the local community’s tap water including copper, lead, nickel and zinc were within the Australian drinking water guidelines and was safe to drink.

The draft notices were issued by the EPA on Friday, May 19, 2023 and Cadia has until Tuesday May 23, 2023 to provide any response.

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