Gunnedah Basin mining giant Whitehaven Coal (WHC) is copping heat over plans to bury hundreds of used heavy-machinery tyres on its Tarrawonga Coal Mine site in north-west New South Wales.

Key points:

  • The company wants to bury an estimated 730 tyres on the site
  • It sits within the boundaries of the Leard State Forest and has been earmarked for revegetation
  • Landholders say it would be an offence if they did the same thing

The mine sits within the boundary of the Leard State Forest and is expected to close by 2028.

WHC has applied to modify its development consent to allow for the disposal of an estimated 730 tyres on the site.

That includes an estimated 187 tyres stockpiled on site and about 78 tyres each year until the mine closes.

The company argues recycling the tyres is not a realistic option despite the existence of a National Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, first launched by the then Environment Minister Greg Hunt in 2014.

Leard State Forest

The Tarrawonga mine site must be revegetated when the mine closes down in 2028.(

ABC Rural: Lisa Herbert

)

“Recycling facilities do not exist proximal to the TCM,” the company said.

It has also made a similar application for its Werris Creek mine, which is expected to close by 2025.

Revegetation in doubt

As a condition of the project’s federal approval the company must rehabilitate at least 752 hectares of native forest woodland within the disturbance area.

In a letter to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), adjoining landholder Ros Druce questioned whether this would be achieved if the modification went ahead.

A woman with sunglasses holding a prop at a protest in front of a banner.

Maules Creek landholder Ros Druce at an anti-mining protest in 2014.(

Twitter: Meret Macdonald

)

“Why should a mining company be allowed to bury hundreds of tonnes of waste tyres under a rehabilitation site that was never contaminated with tyres?” she said.

“[It] could cause ongoing environmental issues in the future, beneath the trees that are to replace the pre-mining forest.

The Narrabri Shire Council wants the company to provide more information on how it would monitor soil and water quality.

It said it could not support the project in its current form.

A WHC spokesperson said the mining industry was looking at ways tyres could be disposed with minimal environmental impact.

More information required

The EPA has recommended that if approval to bury tyres is granted, it should be reviewed every two years to assess if alternative methods of recycling have improved.

A WHC spokesperson says the company “is committed to reviewing its approach regularly to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of alternative approaches”.

Ms Druce said the company should have given more thought to this in the early planning stages of the project.

“The company should have taken into consideration the cost of recycling their waste tyres, rather than relying on having their Environment Protection Licence changed,” she said.

The NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) has requested more information from the company before making a decision.

Anger at mine’s plan to bury hundreds of tyres in forest
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