Building community trust in mining is one of the motivations behind a significant overhaul of rehabilitation regulations.
New regulations are being developed by the NSW Department of Resources and Geoscience, no doubt in response to last year’s Auditor-General's report into Mining Rehabilitation Security Deposits, which called for more money, more monitoring and better planning.
The 30 page report released in May 2016 highlighted the many inadequacies of the existing mine rehabilitation process stating there has not been adequate monitoring of operational mine sites to effectively gauge the progress of ongoing site rehabilitation and management of closure risks.
Dr David Blackmore, Director Environmental Sustainability Unit, Department of Resources and Geoscience delivered a forthright presentation at the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue annual forum saying it was vital for the future of mining that the land be returned post-mining to a fit and proper use.
“We have to ensure rehabilitation occurs progressively and then the community will understand mining can achieve a sustainable outcome,” he said.
“Community trust will come from companies doing the right thing as far as rehabilitation is concerned as well as the rehab work being done in a timely, progressive and sustainable manner.
“This industry’s social licence to mine will be based on these outcomes.”
Dr Blackmore, told an audience dominated by mining industry representatives, that mining played a key economic role in the NSW economy.
He spoke of the need to develop clarity and uniformity in mining regulations, as many mines, were operating on various mine licence conditions some prepared years ago that no longer suited today’s environmental standards and community expectations.
Mine Operating Plans (MOP) would no longer be the defining document for how a mine exists and how its closure was achieved and completed.
“MOPs are too prescriptive, not flexible and way too static for a successful mining operation today,” he said.
“They don’t encourge best practice through the uptake of innovation. And we need innovative approaches when it comes to mining especially mine rehabilitation.”
Dr Blackmore wants to see mine-closure in the front end of the planning process not as an after thought when the mine is about to cease production.
“We are going to ditch MOPs as they prevent innovation and we have to prove to the community rehabilitation is being done correctly – they simply have to see this work and then and only then will they understand whats happening,” he said.
To this end the Department of Resources is hoping by 2018 to have a rehab portal in operation a GIS ( geographic information system) that tracks rehab work on all mine sites.
“Using the GIS portal the public can see every mine in the state and see what work rehab work has been undertaken on an annual basis, Dr Blackmore said.
“Its a pro-active tool and that means the public can access satellite images of each mine’s rehab work.”