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Costly Coal Spill in World Heritage Area

EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82 per Robson J

Background

Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd (Clarence Colliery) operates a coal mine near Newnes Junction in the Blue Mountains area.  In July 2015 an overtopping incident occurred where 2,300 tonnes of coal escaped from a coal storage area and entered an unnamed watercourse, the Wollangambe River and the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.

The EPA issued clean-up notices and oversaw a comprehensive clean-up of the coal material including over 44 inspections and over 600 helicopter trips to remove the coal from the river.  The clean-up efforts cost more than $2M.

Offences

In EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82, Clarence Colliery was prosecuted by the Environment Protection Authority for negligently causing the escape of a coal material that harmed the environment.  The two offences were under:
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The Benefits of Mediation

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a structured negotiation process whereby a neutral independent party, the mediator, helps the parties in a dispute to achieve their own resolution to the dispute.

When should parties mediate?

Mediation is most successful when the parties have a genuine desire to settle and prepared to compromise.

The following are examples of circumstances where mediation may occur:

  • compulsory referral to mediation by order of the court
  • before commencement of litigation
  • early in the stages of litigation
  • when the Plaintiff has prepared evidence but the defendant has not
  • after all evidence has been served and a court date has been set

Benefits

One of the key benefits of mediation is confidentiality.  The Civil Procedure Act 2005 provides that admissions made in mediation or evidence of anything said in mediation is not admissible in any proceedings before a court or other body (see s 30(4)).  If the mediation is unsuccessful, the substance of the mediation cannot be used against a party later in the proceedings.
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Hefty Fine in Polluting Waters Prosecution

In the recent decision Environment Protection Authority v Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 64, Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific Pty Ltd (Dyno Nobel) was convicted of two offences under the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act).

The Offences

The first offence was for polluting waters (s 120(1) POECO Act) and the second offence was for breaching its Environment Protection Licence conditions (s 64(1) POEO Act).

These offences arose out of a pollution incident in 2015.  Work on Dyno Nobel’s on-site collection dams for wastewater caused wastewater to flow into neighbouring property.  A misplaced pipe and a valve failure resulted in the toxic wastewater flowing onto a neighbouring farm where it waterlogged a paddock, killed livestock and stopped 200m short from the major waterway.

The neighbouring farmer noticed that his paddock was a murky green colour, the paddock was soaked and five of his cattle were dead.  The carcases of the cattle had puffed up and foam could be seen around their mouths and noses.
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