Aerial view of rehabilitated heavy mineral mining operation at Goolawah, south of Crescent Head.

To ensure that potential impacts on the environment are minimised, the Mining Act 1992, Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, Offshore  Minerals Act 1999 and the Petroleum (Offshore) Act 1982 empower the Minister for Resources & Energy to impose conditions on titles.

Environmental and rehabilitation performance is enforced and regulated through this process. For example, conditions attached to:

  • Exploration Licences require companies to seek approval for activities which disturb the surface of the land and to submit a security deposit which covers the full rehabilitation liability.
  • Mining Leases require companies; to submit a Mining Operations Plan (MOP) prior to commencing operations and a security deposit which covers the full rehabilitation liability. Annual Environmental Management Reports (AEMR) are also required which document the progress of mining operations and rehabilitation.
  • Petroleum Production Leases require companies to submit a Petroleum Operations Plan (POP) prior to commencing operations and a security deposit which covers the full rehabilitation liability. Annual Environmental Management Reports (AEMR) are also required.

Environmental assessment process

All mining and petroleum projects and most exploration activities require environmental assessment under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) before they can start.

The comprehensive merit-based  assessment under the EP&A Act considers a broad range of environmental issues including biodiversity, water management, alternative uses of the land and whether the proposed development is in the best interests of the State. The ecological sustainability of the development, including inter-generational equity, social and economic factors, is also considered.

For most large projects, the proponent must submit an application for development consent with the Department of Planning & Infrastructure and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The EIS is a comprehensive document that covers issues such as air quality, noise, transport, flora and fauna, surface and ground water management, methods of mining or petroleum production, landscape management and rehabilitation. Extensive public consultation is also required, with community members encouraged to make submissions on the application.

NSW Trade & Investment – Division of Resources & Energy (DRE) is one of a number of key government agencies who are consulted as part of the approval process for new coal, mineral and petroleum developments. DRE is responsible for commenting primarily on rehabilitation, safety, resource utilisation and relevant environmental management matters.

For smaller projects or exploration activities, proponents are required to submit a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) that addresses all potential impacts of the proposal, including potential impacts on the environment, water resources and the community. Approval will not be given if the relevant approval agency considers that the environmental impacts of the project are unacceptable.

If a project is approved, conditions on approvals are imposed to minimise potential environmental impacts. Rehabilitation and environmental performance conditions are also attached to all authorities (exploration and mining) issued under the Mining  Act 1992 and petroleum titles issued under the Petroleum  (Onshore) Act 1991. DRE is the approval authority for most exploration activities.

This stringent regulatory approach works to ensure that all projects, including exploration, mining and petroleum activities, are thoroughly assessed and their environmental impacts are properly regulated and controlled.  

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Environmental Sustainability Unit
+61 (0)2 4931 6605
+61 (0)2 4931 6790 (attn: Environmental Sustainability Unit)
Environmental Sustainability Unit, NSW Trade & Investment, Resources & Energy Division, PO Box 344 Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310
516 High Street Maitland NSW 2320 Map