Media release

National Pollutant Inventory lifts the lid on Australia’s toxic burden

April 02, 2017


This year’s National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) reveals the total failure of Australian governments to control air pollution, Environmental Justice Australia said.

Toxic emissions from the coal industry’s mines, power stations and export terminals dominate this year’s annual report, with many of Australia’s largest polluters reporting emission hikes.

The Bayswater coal-fired power station in NSW reported a 770% increase in toxic coarse particle (PM10) pollution over the last five years.

Emissions from the Tarong Power station in Central Queensland increased by a staggering 237% in just one year.

Environmental Justice Australia, along with community, environmental and health organisations, is calling for the Commonwealth to take a stronger role and has accused state regulators (EPAs and environment departments) of a “total failure” to control toxic pollution.

“The health damage caused by air pollution costs Australians between $11 billion and $24.3 billion per annum, yet governments continue to allow polluters to poison communities,” said EJA researcher Dr James Whelan.

“The latest NPI data reveals the total failure of Australian governments to control air pollution and highlights the need for much stronger pollution controls and regulation.”

Power stations

Electricity generation from coal-fired power stations remains the single largest contributor of deadly fine particle pollution, which accounts for more than 3,000 premature deaths each year.

The nation’s 274 generators reported emitting 8,263,490kg of PM2.5 (29% of the national total).

Several coal-fired power stations reported increased toxic emissions.

* In NSW, Bayswater power station, near Muswellbrook, has reported a 770% increase in PM10 emissions over the last five years.

* In Queensland, fine particle emissions from Tarong power station increased by 237% in just one year, while the Gladstone power station’s total emissions increased by 6% and Stanwell’s (near Rockhampton) increased by 11%.

* In Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, toxic emissions from Loy Yang B increased by 13% (including a 22% increase in PM2.5 emissions) while emissions from Yallourn increased by 2%.

Coal mines

Coal mining is Australia’s second largest source of coarse particle (PM10) emissions, accounting for 393 million kilograms of pollution (41% of the nation’s total).

Coal mines are also the third most significant source of fine particle pollution, emitting almost 5.5 million kilograms of PM2.5 during the last year.

“Particle pollution from coal mines has trebled over a decade, defying state government pollution controls,” Dr Whelan said.

“Despite the NSW Government promising its Dust Stop program would ensure ‘international best practice’ control of dangerous particle pollution, coal dust emissions continue to increase.”

Many of Australia’s most polluting coal mines reported significantly increased PM10 emissions.

* In NSW: Bulga (32% increase); Wambo (23%); Maules Creek (13%); Wilpinjong (19%); Mt Thorley Warkworth (12%); and Coal and Allied’s Hunter Valley Operations (11%)

* In Queensland: Drake Coal (345% increase); Lake Vermont (291%); Moranbah North (61%); South Walker (43%); Caval Ridge (19%); Daunia (18%); and Moorvale (18%)

* In WA: Ewington (77% increase)

Black Lung

With Black Lung disease (Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis) recently re-emerging in the Queensland coal industry, the state government has extended the terms of reference for a parliamentary inquiry to include workers in underground coal mines, coal-fired power stations and coal terminals, as well as open cut coal miners.

PM10 emissions from Newcastle’s three coal terminals increased by 25% increase in this year.

Over five years, PM10 emissions from Mackay’s two coal terminals have increased by 42% and PM2.5 emissions by 165%.


In Greater Metropolitan Sydney (including Newcastle and Wollongong) 3,561 million tonnes of 35 toxic pollutants were reported by 422 facilities.  Many of these substances are toxic at any concentration.

Toxic emissions from coal-fired power stations accounted for 87% of Sydney’s 187,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide, 88% of the 2,324 tonnes of sulphuric acid, 44% of the 267,590 tonnes of oxides of nitrogen, 38% of the 724 kilograms of mercury and 23% of the 2,385 tonnes of PM2.5. Emissions from power stations in the Hunter and Central Coast regions travel as far as Sydney.

Coal mining is the dominant source of particle pollution, accounting for 72% of Greater Sydney’s PM10 (72,348 tonnes) and 58% of the region’s PM2.5 (1,381 tonnes).

Skip to content