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Morwell Operator Fined $1.56m over ‘Uncontrollable’ mine fire

August 23, 2022

May 19, 2020

Four operators of Hazelwood Power Station have been fined $95,000 each for pollution-related offences following the 2014 mine fire which burned for 45 days.

Hazelwood Pacific Pty Ltd, Australian Power Partners B.V, Hazelwood Churchill Pty Ltd and National Power Australia were found guilty of breaching the Environment Protection Act.

Justice Andrew Keogh said he was “not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt” that offenders caused pollution, due to the weather conditions in West Gippsland being extreme and the fire becoming uncontrollable.

“Speed and ferocity of the attack on the mine was extraordinary,” he said.

“Nothing could be done to prevent it from racing towards the mine.”

However, he did acknowledge smoke from the fire had a significant impact on residents in Victoria’s south-east in Morwell and the nearby community.

The EPA sentencing follows an earlier Supreme Court of Victoria hearing, where Hazelwood Power Corporation was handed a $1.56 million fine for breaching sections 21 and 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 during the Hazelwood mine fire.

Hazelwood Power Corporation must pay the fine in 90 days.

Members of the community told 9News they were disappointed by today’s verdict.

“I strongly feel it is a ridiculously low figure given the long term and immediate impacts that this event had on the community but also the severity of the charges,” Tracie Lund from Morwell Neighbourhood House said.

Voices of the Valley community group president Wendy Farmer said she was “not satisfied” with the amount.

“$1.5 million to a company of this size is not even a slap on the wrist,” Ms Farmer said.

“Guilty is guilty, regardless of what they are being fined and yes we agree that it is not enough.”

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