The Land and Environment Court has fined Whitehaven Coal $200,000 for illegally capturing water.
Whitehaven pleaded guilty to using dams and water storages at its Maules Creek mine site to illegally capture one billion litres of rainfall and surface water runoff between July 2016 and June 2019.
A Whitehaven spokeswoman said the "water take was passive, and was not intentional or premeditated in any way. It arose from there being a deficient water diversion system at the mine"
The sentence comes just weeks after the company was fined $30,000 for polluting a creek at its Tarrawonga coal mine with "high levels of metal and bicarbonates".
Lock the Gate Alliance estimated the fine was equivalent to the value of coal shipped from the mine in less than an hour.
Boggabri farmer Sally Hunter said she doubted the latest penalty would alter the company's behaviour.
"While farmers were ploughing in their crops and stock were dying during the drought, Whitehaven took one billion litres of water without a licence. This water, at this time was priceless, and would have been a lifesaver for lots of farms and businesses" she said.
"Time and again we see Whitehaven flagrantly breaking the law and receiving little more than a slap on the wrist from the government or the courts. This pathetic fine will not stop this repeated behaviour.
"Ordinary members of the public are fined far more for much less. It's long past time for the NSW Perrottet Government to get tough on mining companies and appropriately penalise them for the heinous crimes they are committing."
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said people were sick of mining companies getting away with serious offences with insignificant repercussions.
"In a week that a peaceful activist has been jailed for protesting, it is particularly jarring that this repeat offender should effectively get off scott free for such a major offence," she said.
"It is difficult to see how the public can have faith in the legislation that governs coal mining companies when it is so clearly failing to keep the companies in line."
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