NSW Health warns of mine dust effects

THE NSW Department of Health is standing by its assertions that dust from the proposed Ashton South East open-cut mine could have adverse effects on the health of nearby Camberwell residents.

A report commissioned by the health department from the CSIRO said a new air quality monitoring station at Camberwell had measured 11 excesses in nine months, even though wet weather had suppressed dust levels and one nearby open-cut had stopped mining in September.

The CSIRO report looks at levels of PM10 dust, which comprises particles of 10 microns or less in diameter.

‘‘Exceedences of the 24-hour PM10 criterion have been an ongoing problem at Camberwell,’’ the CSIRO report says.

It notes shortcomings with computer modelling used to predict the Ashton dust levels and says ‘‘confidence in the results’’ of this sort of modelling would be stronger if more data was collected after nearby mines had shut.

Camberwell dust levels were cited last year when a state government Planning Assessment Commission refused to approve the Ashton project.

After Ashton challenged that decision in the Land and Environment Court, the commission agreed to reconsider the project in light of further evidence, including a 209-page report from the NSW Department of Planning, which supported the project.

The planning report noted that the health department still wanted Ashton South East deferred until other mines in the area had stopped operating, to reduce the existing dust levels.

But the planning department did not believe there was ‘‘sufficient justification’’ to do this because Ashton’s effects on Camberwell were ‘‘comparable to the impacts associated with other large mining projects in the Hunter Valley and NSW’’.

A spokeswoman for the planning commission said a public hearing had been held in Singleton on May 31 and the commission was still assessing its decision.

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