The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), Department of Planning (DoP) and Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW) have completed joint NSW government agency environmental compliance and performance audits focused on the management of dust from coal mines to help improve environmental performance.

The audits focused on requirements relating to dust management in environment protection licences issued by DECCW; development consents and project approvals issued by DoP; and mining lease(s), mining operations plan requirements and annual environmental management reports issued by I&I NSW. The audit process included compliance audits conducted at a selection of coal mines in the Hunter, Western and Gunnedah coalfields of NSW and research into approaches for implementing a dust management system for coal mines.

Overall it can be seen that whilst there were a number of non-compliances observed there were none of considerable environmental significance (high-risk). However, all noncompliances must be addressed and the audits present an opportunity for improvement by the industry.

The findings of the audits demonstrate that coal mines can and will need to improve their dust management practices by:

  • developing and implementing dust management plans for coal mining operations;
  • planning activities using forecast and real-time weather monitoring data and restricting or ceasing activities during unfavourable weather conditions;
  • conducting local area visual checks in addition to real-time weather-monitoring data to direct the application of necessary dust controls;
  • properly maintaining dust-control equipment to ensure mitigation measures are available and effective;
  • monitoring the effectiveness of the mitigation measures implemented and feeding this information into regular reviews of dust management procedures;
  • ensuring that ambient dust-monitoring stations are sited and equipment is calibrated and maintained according to regulatory requirements;
  • ensuring staff are aware of − and implement − dust management procedures in day-today coal mining operations;
  • limiting exposed areas throughout all stages of coal mine operations including minimising pre-stripped areas, using temporary vegetation cover and implementing progressive rehabilitation.

Further information and the full report is available at