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Miner claims pain ongoing from blast at Whitehaven's Maules Creek Mine, court hears

A court has heard from a Boggabri Coal worker that a blast from Whitehaven's coal mine left him with a constant ringing in his ears that still affects his ability to sleep.

ABC New England / By Max Tillman and James Paras, Posted Wed 20 Sep 2023.

The hearings in the NSW Land and Environment Court relate to a blast conducted at the Maules Creek Mine near the town of Boggabri in August 2020.

The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is prosecuting the mine's operator, Whitehaven Pty Limited, for four alleged offences relating to blasting in an incompetent manner and failing to deal with materials in a proper and efficient manner, in turn causing the emission of noise.

The court has heard workers at the nearby Boggabri Coal Mine, 3 kilometres away from the Maules Creek site, suffered ear pain and headaches from the explosion.

The court heard from Boggabri Coal worker Jonathan Burns, who told Justice Sarah Pritchard there was nowhere for the sound to go between the Maules Creek and Boggabri site.

He said he was caught "out in the open" when the shock wave from the blast reached the site of the Boggabri mine. 

Mr Burns told the court he was behind a 2-metre-tall retaining wall of earth, and that he had already removed his ear muffs once he entered the protective zone. 

"There was nowhere for the sound to go, it just [went] through me," Mr Burns said.

Left with constant ringing

Maules Creek Coal's legal team asked Mr Burns if being behind the retaining wall constituted being out in the open. 

"Would you agree that indicates there was nothing between where you were, and where the sound was coming from?" Mr Burns was asked. 

"I was inside the bunded [retaining wall] area," Mr Burns told the court. 

"If you were outside the bunded area, your WHS (work health and safety) would require [you] to wear ear muffs?" Maules Creek's legal counsel asked.

"I was inside the exclusion zone when I took off my PPE (personal protective equipment)," Burns replied. 

He told Justice Pritchard he had suffered earaches since the incident, as well as a tinnitus infection that had left him with constant ringing in the ears that had made it difficult to sleep.

The court also heard Maules Creek Pty Ltd had appealed to have Justice Pritchard recused from hearing the case, citing an apprehended bias. 

However, Justice Pritchard was not recused and the hearing continues.


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