Those of us living in a community that is home to some of the country's largest open cut coal mines are extremely pleased to see the Department of Planning and Environment is about to embark on a serious overhaul of how they plan, monitor and set security bonds for mine rehabilitation.
This overhaul is long overdue.
Publication last week’s of the Auditor-General’s report ‘ Mining Rehabilitation Security Bonds’ was the main impetus for a rework and it is one of the best overviews of the industry published.
Its easy to read and speaks the truth and it clearly states there needs to be more money held in security bonds, more monitoring and better planning.
A report on security bonds also talks about what would happen if many years down the track a rehabilitation program on a mine site fails abysmally asking who will pay for that potential environmental disaster.
Such honestly it’s a breathe of fresh air when so many departmental reports gloss over the realities that is mining no matter the product that is extracted.
In charge of the rehabilitation work which now part of the Department of Planning is David Blackmore who gave a brief overview of the changes at this week’s Land Use Futures: Upper Hunter Forum.
He said where once rehabilitation was confined to simply returning mines to a’ safe and stable’ final landform future work aims to develop a greater variety of post-mining landuses and ensuring progressive rehabilitation takes place throughout the mine’s life.
A new security bonds calculator is expected to be released in June. There are also plans for technology that allows the public to see the rehab work being done at the mines.
Its all sounds very promising but one question that was asked at the forum regarding mining’s impact on water sources and final voids revealed some long held attitudes in government departments.
Previously is has been considered by government that it is acceptable, due to the economic and social benefits, that final voids are one of the prices the community has to pay for open cut mining.
Its was also a similar attitude to taken water sources, although with far more scrutiny and technical advice.
Perhaps it is time we started to rethink this attitude and push for mine consent conditions that minimise voids and do no harm to water sources.