The NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has taken a keen interest in mine rehabilitation in recent months. And that is a very good thing indeed and we welcome his keenness to do something positive about a vital part of the region's mining industry.
Five years ago a damning report by the NSW Auditor General highlighted the many failures of 'legacy' mine regulations and rehabilitation. One the insufficient rehabilitation bonds, two the lack of planning for mine closure and three the lack of monitoring of mine rehabilitation undertakings.
Since that time from what we can ascertain from scouring NSW departmental documents and seeking answers from those same departments is the fact that some mines do a far better job than others when it comes to planning and actually doing mine rehabilitation.
When the Drayton open cut mine near Muswellbrook closed in 2016 it would appear that the last thing on its former owner's mind was rehabilitation. At that time various reports showed no work had been undertaken to rehab the site despite the fact the mine owners were required to do so as part of their mine's consent conditions.
This is just one example of what happens if the regulatory bodies are unable to enforce consent conditions for rehab on mine sites.
At the time of the Auditor General's report we were told things would change we would be able, through the latest technology, to see in real time rehab being undertaken on mine sites. Well that never took place and we are still waiting for the promised easy access to monitoring of rehab work. For one we would love to return and inspect how the replanting of Warkworth Sands Woodland on the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine is going.
This was a significant project for the mine's then owners Rio Tinto as they pushed for the green light to be given for the expansion of their mine through some of the existing, but critically endangered, Warkworth Sands Woodlands. Seeing how that replanting is going would be an important milestone for mining rehabilitation in the Upper Hunter.
So we hope the new regulations can bring that about and bring good planning and transparency and strict adherence to consent conditions when it comes to rehabilitation and mine closure. Our community needs this work to be done at best practice so we are not left with a landscape devoid of any post mining uses.