24th July 2017

More than 100 non-compliance breaches were identified in a two-day blitz in Lightning Ridge’s opal fields by officers from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

Safety and environment inspectors from the Department’s Resources Regulator and Division of Resources and Geoscience carried out on-site inspections on July 11 and 12 to monitor and enforce compliance with mining and safety laws.

Lightning Ridge, the epicentre of the NSW opal industry, is home to thousands of small mining claims.

"This was the fourth proactive compliance operation conducted by the Department since 2014," said Anthony Keon, from the Department’s Resources Regulator.

"Compliance checks are routine, however given the nature and scale of opal mining operations in Lightning Ridge, a coordinated operation was again undertaken."

The operation focused on mine shaft safety, mechanical and electrical safety, mineral claim conditions and rehabilitation of mineral claims.

During the two-day audit, safety and environment inspectors carried out 135 site inspections and found 40 claims were identified as having environmental non-compliances, and 58 as having safety non-compliances.

The main non-compliance issues identified during the audit were:

  • poor rehabilitation of expired claims;
  • unguarded hoists;
  • non-compliant mine waste material heaps;
  • missing identification tags;
  • excess rubbish (including hydro carbons and batteries); and
  • missing mine shaft covers.

"Titleholders were forewarned of the operation and those that were found to be non-compliant now face a range of sanctions – including written warnings, statutory directions, penalty notices, prosecution and possible cancellation of a mineral claims," Mr Keon said.

"Mine safety is of paramount importance – they can be tough and dangerous workplaces and our role is to make sure mine workers are safe."