By Heidi Asten, Partner, and Alice Gilbert, Solicitor, Melbourne
Rehabilitation of mine is increasingly a focus of regulator attention as well as changing community expectations.
In Queensland, changes to the rehabilitation of mining land have occurred through the Mineral Resources and Energy (Financial Provisioning) Act 2018 (Qld). Comments on a ‘progressive rehabilitation and closure plan’ to support the Mineral Resources and Energy (Financial Provisioning) Act 2018 (Qld) have recently closed.
Work is also being done in New South Wales where the Department of Planning and Environment is currently considering feedback on a discussion paper ‘Improving Mine Rehabilitation in NSW’.
Recently in Victoria, on 4 June 2019 the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment Bill 2019 (Vic) (Bill) was introduced to the Parliament of Victoria. The main purpose of the Bill is to amend the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (Vic) (Act) to implement recommendations that came from the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry (Inquiry), including a focus on mine rehabilitation.
Background to the Victorian changes – Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry
The Inquiry was established in March 2014 following fires that burned for 6 weeks in the Hazelwood coal mine. A central focus of the Inquiry was on mine rehabilitation.
Proposed mine rehabilitation framework for Victoria
The Bill proposes a new framework to address mine rehabilitation:
- the establishment of a Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority (Authority) with a Board to manage the affairs of the Authority. The Inquiry had recommended a statutory authority be established to focus on planning for post-closure monitoring and maintenance. The Authority’s objectives in the Bill are to, among other things, promote the effective and consistent rehabilitation of coal mine land;
- the ability for the Authority to purchase, acquire and dispose of declared mine land and land in close proximity to declared mine land;
- the requirement for ‘declared mine land’ to have a declared mine rehabilitation plan specifying, among other things, closure criteria to be met as part of mine closure obligations and a post-closure plan setting out monitoring and maintenance required to be carried out on the declared mine land; and
- the establishment of a Declared Mine Fund that will be used by the Authority to meet the ongoing costs of managing declared mine land post mine closure. The Bill provides for the ability to develop regulations to set out the process and method for assessing contributions to the Declared Mine Fund, however other funding will come from rehabilitation bonds that may be paid into the Fund. The Bill also envisages that both declared mine licensees and land holders of declared mine land will contribute to the Fund.
The Assembly’s second reading of the Bill considers that the amendments do not increase the liabilities and responsibilities of mine operators but make them more explicit.
If you have any queries about this Bill or the rehabilitation of mines, please contact our team below.