WHITEHAVEN Coal has been convicted of 19 breaches of approval conditions at its Narrabri Coal operations, in NSW's North West Slopes.
It pleaded guilty to a range of charges including the construction of unauthorised tracks, drilling of bores in contravention of approval conditions and failure to rehabilitate drill sites.
Should the company have received the maximum fine for each charge, it would have added up to more than $17 million. Instead it was handed a fine of $372,500 by the NSW Land and Environment Court for the breaches.
The company stated it's taken responsibility for its actions, but remains adamant it caused minimal environmental damage.
"Whitehaven has always accepted responsibility for the non-compliances, and took immediate corrective action including rehabilitating tracks, sealing boreholes and improving compliance systems at the Narrabri mine," a spokesman said.
"We note in its investigation, the regulator determined the unauthorised clearing of tracks was unlikely to result in significant impact to any threatened species or long-term significant environmental harm, and minimal long-term environmental harm would be caused to the waterways crossed by the unauthorised clearing.
"In relation to the clearing of the three tracks, the court determined the actual environmental harm was 'minimal', and 'at the lower end of medium objective seriousness'.
"The remaining offences were determined to be of low objective seriousness."
However, environmental group Lock the Gate Alliance (LtGA) is not pleased with the company's attitude, or the punishment.
It has said the fines amount to little more than "chicken scratch" for the company, despite it being the most amount the company has had to pay in NSW.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter told LtGA she thought Whitehaven would see it as no more than "the cost of doing business in NSW" and described the monetary punishment as "meagre".