In New South Wales, an authorisation must be granted by the Minister for Resources & Energy under the Mining Act 1992 before anyone can prospect, explore for or mine publicly owned minerals, whether on Crown or private land. Before a mining lease can be granted, development consent must be obtained under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.
For information regarding production of petroleum (including coal seam gas) refer to Petroleum Production.
Assessment process for mining proposals
Mining activities are tightly controlled in New South Wales. The mining lease, together with other statutory approvals, such as environmental protection licences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and planning approvals under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act), regulate the impact of mining on the environment.
New mining projects and any expansion of existing projects require development consent under the EP&A Act. All new coal mines, mineral sand mines, proposed mines in environmentally sensitive areas of State significance and mines with capital investment of more than $30 million are considered State Significant Development and require approval from the Minister for Planning & Infrastructure (see the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011 ).
Smaller metalliferous, non-coal, clay and extractive industry style mines usually require development consent from the local council.
As part of the assessment process under the EP&A Act, proponents are required to prepare and submit a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement that addresses all potential impacts of the proposal, including potential impacts on water resources, air quality, noise, biodiversity and local communities. In all cases, extensive public consultation is required, including thorough consultation with community and local government, before any application is considered by the determining authority.
NSW Department of Industry, Resources & Energy is one of a number of key government agencies who are consulted as part of the approvals process for new coal and mineral developments. DRE is responsible for commenting primarily on rehabilitation, safety, resource utilisation and relevant environmental matters.
If a project is approved, conditions are imposed to minimise potential environmental impacts. Furthermore, rehabilitation and environmental performance conditions are also attached to all mining leases issued under the Mining Act 1992.
While the NSW Government encourages sustainable development of our natural resources, regulatory powers are in place to ensure that the impacts of mining activities are appropriately assessed. Unacceptable impacts will not be approved.
Mining Rehabilitation and Environmental Management Process (MREMP)
Conditions are attached to mining leases to regulate environmental management and rehabilitation. These conditions include requirements to submit a Mining Operations Plan (MOP) prior to the commencement of any operations, and also subsequent Annual Environmental Management Reports (AEMRs). Collectively, the MOP and AEMR make up the Mining, Rehabilitation and Environmental Management Process (MREMP).
The MREMP provides:
- a management tool for all operations within the mine;
- a means of identifying and managing the significant mining, rehabilitation and environmental aspects of the mining operations;
- a means of assessing environmental performance;
- a mechanism for detailed rehabilitation planning and for monitoring rehabilitation progress and success;
- a basis for estimating rehabilitation requirements and the amount of security required by NSW Department of Industry, Resources & Energy; and
- a framework which promotes regular reporting to, and interaction between, government agencies regarding core operations and environmental matters.
The MREMP facilitates a flexible response to changing circumstances. The descriptions and plans should be consistent with the MOP format and guidelines. Any significant changes onsite will need to be addressed in a MOP amendment which will require approval from DRE.
Site inspections and audits
DRE monitors mine sites through inspections and audits to ensure compliance with legislative requirements, title conditions and MOPs. These may be carried out in conjunction and cooperation with other regulatory agencies. DRE also has powers for auditing (both mandatory and voluntary) to promote compliance and identify areas requiring further improvement.
Environmental incident reporting
Authorisations granted under the Mining Act 1992 include an environmental incident reporting condition. This condition requires the lease holder to "report any incidents causing or threatening material harm to the environment". Refer to the DRE Guideline ESB28 – Environmental Incident Reporting Requirements (66 KB PDF).
DRE is responsible for investigating community complaints and environmental incidents. A range of compliance and enforcement mechanisms are available in accordance with DRE's legislative and policy framework including penalty infringement notices and, if required, prosecution. DRE's enforcement approach to non-compliance depends upon the nature or consequences of the non-compliance and the previous performance of the lease holder, including responses to previous notices or sanctions.
For information on how a member of the public may lodge a complaint or report an incident, please refer to Complaints and incident reporting by the public.
It is the responsibility of DRE to ensure that land disturbed by mining activities is returned to a sustainable post-mining land use.
A security deposit that covers the full rehabilitation costs is required on all authorisations. This requirement ensures that the State does not incur financial liabilities in the event of an authorisation holder defaulting on their rehabilitation obligations.
The authorisation holder is required to provide an estimate of rehabilitation costs for consideration when determining the security deposit amount.
DRE will assess and determine when rehabilitation obligations have been met and the security deposit can be released. Partial release of the security deposits may occur when successful rehabilitation has been demonstrated for part of the site.
A Rehabilitation Cost Calculation Tool is available to assist in calculating the security deposit for a site.
Mining affected land can be rehabilitated to a variety of land uses including cropping and agriculture, native ecosystems, forestry, industry, heritage sites, residential developments and mixed land uses.
Under the Mining Act 1992, DRE has a wide range of powers for regulating rehabilitation including:
- environmental management and rehabilitation conditions
- rehabilitation security bonds
- clear enforcement powers to ensure lease holders comply with their obligations.
Lease holders must also submit and comply with an approved Mining Operations Plan (including a rehabilitation plan), which is used for detailed rehabilitation planning and for monitoring rehabilitation progress and success.
Rehabilitation must be undertaken progressively over the life of the mine. DRE has responsibility for determining when rehabilitation has met the required standard, taking into account post-mining land use, prior to title relinquishment and security deposit release. Partial release of the security deposit may occur when successful rehabilitation has been demonstrated for part of the site.
- EDP10 Public Access to Environmental Information Policy [82.3 KB PDF]
- EDP11 Rehabilitation Security Deposits Policy [38.3 KB PDF]
- ESG1 Rehabilitation Cost Estimate Guidelines [5.7 MB PDF]
- ESG2 Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines [340.9 KB PDF]
- ESG3-Mining-Operations-Plan-MOP-Guidelines-September-2013.pdf [6.9 MB PDF]
- ESB28 Environmental Incident Reporting Requirements [65.9 KB PDF]
- EDG11 Format and Guideline for the preparation of a Mining Operations Plan MOP Small Mine Version [1.2 MB PDF]
- EDG12 Small Mine Annual Environmental Management Report Guideline [88.2 KB PDF]
- EDG12 Small Mine Annual Environmental Management Report Guidelines [92.0 KB DOC]
- EDG03 Mining, Rehabilitation and Environmental Management Process Guideline [1.4 MB PDF]
- ESB26 Rehabilitation Cost Calculation Tool [2.4 MB ms_excel_document]
- ESUF02 Rehabilitation Cost Estimation Submission Form July 2012 [85.5 KB DOC]
- +61 (0)2 4931 6590
- +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