The operators of a defunct Victorian power station must fork out more than $1.9 million after a bushfire spread to a coalmine and burned for 45 days.
Hazelwood Power Corporation was convicted of putting employees and nearby residents at risk by failing to prepare for the February 2014 fire in the state's Latrobe Valley.
It was fined $1.56 million in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Tuesday. Four companies that operated the power station were also fined a collective $380,000.
Hazelwood wasn't responsible for the blaze that started near the mine during extreme weather. However, a jury found Hazelwood guilty of 10 out of 12 occupational health and safety breaches.
Its bushfire risk assessment was inadequate and there were not enough staff on the site with expertise to fight the blaze which spread to the mine on February 9 that year.
"It was not an adequate response to risk to wait until a bushfire was bearing down on the mine to increase staff numbers or to rely on goodwill of staff who attended voluntarily," Justice Andrew Keogh found.
The fire in the open cut mine burned for weeks, blanketing the nearby town of Morwell with thick smoke, and exposing residents, mine workers and firefighters to particles and carbon monoxide.
Hazelwood's previous successes in reducing the number of coal fires at the site had led to a degree of complacency, the judge found.
"This was not because of any conscious disregard by (Hazelwood), which was clearly attentive to the risk of coal fire at the mine," Justice Keogh said.
Hazelwood hadn't come under attack from a bushfire or burning embers in almost 60 years of operations.
But the 2014 disaster showed "a degree of complacency and subconscious acceptance of risk born from success in reducing the number of mine fires" in the past.
Four companies that operated the power station were each separately found guilty of three pollution offences over the blaze.
Hazelwood Pacific Pty Ltd, Australian Power Partners B.V., Hazelwood Churchill Pty Ltd and National Power Australia Investments Ltd each copped a $95,000 fine on Environment Protection Authority charges.
But community advocate Wendy Farmer said the total fines were an insult given the cost to Latrobe Valley residents.
"We were collateral damage," the Voices of the Valley president told AAP.
"It doesn't even look at what the cost was to the community."
"The community is still paying the price."
WorkSafe Victoria said Hazelwood, which closed in 2017, should have been better prepared given previous blazes as well as the extreme weather during February 2014.
"This was an entirely foreseeable event that has led to significant adverse health impacts," chief executive Colin Radford said.
The EPA was pleased the mine's operators had been held to account but acknowledged some residents were disappointed.
"This was grand-scale pollution that affected the environment and every member of the community," chief executive Cathy Wilkinson said.
Engie, which now owns the defunct Hazelwood site, said it had consistently expressed regret for the mine fire and "we repeat this today".
It added it was committing to rehabilitating the site and surrounding area.
Australian Associated Press