SYDNEY, 19 December – The Greater Sydney region is in serious danger of extremely toxic air pollution as crisis fire maps now place “burned areas” over two highly flammable coal mines this afternoon.The Gosper’s Mountain mega-fire has been approaching the Springvale coal mine for several days with current maps indicating fire completely surrounding it, and now the Rural Fire Service fire maps indicate two fires have converged over the Tahmoor coal mine.

“Coal is extremely flammable, meaning any fires could likely burn for weeks, emitting toxic fumes which will aggravate the already dangerous levels of air pollution across New South Wales,” said Dr Nikola Casule, Head of Research and Investigations at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“The toxic fumes emitted from coal mine fires not only put workers and emergency services responders at extreme risk, but families and communities as well.”

“Coal mine fires would cause a significant worsening of the air pollution crisis we are already experiencing, as coal produces highly toxic emissions that are incredibly dangerous to families, and especially young children and the elderly.”

“The Springvale coal mine suffered a power failure earlier this week. If power is cut again, it will disable fire-fighting infrastructure at the site, including sprinklers and water pumps, and other crucial emergency response equipment.”

The last time Australia experienced a major coal mine fire was the Hazelwood fire in 2014 which burned for six weeks, emitting toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic compounds, volatile organic compounds, dioxins and furans, and metals.

A subsequent independent inquiry found 11 premature deaths were attributable to the fires, along with a raft of ongoing health impacts including an increased risk of lung cancer, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory conditions, heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, long-term cognitive decline and psychosocial effects. [1]


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Notes to editors:
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