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. Resources & Energy 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.
Rehabilitation as defined by the Mining Act 1992 (Mining Act) means the treatment or management of disturbed land or water for the purpose of establishing a safe and stable environment. This relates to both exploration and mining projects.
The scope of rehabilitation activities cover a broad range of components that need to be addressed in order to establish a safe and stable environment following the closure of a mining operation. The scope of rehabilitation activities include but are not necessarily limited to demolition of surface infrastructure; remediation of contaminated land; capping of tailings dams; final landform establishment; geotechnical stabilisation; sealing of mine entries and boreholes; removal of ore pads; amelioration of soils for revegetation; and revegetation works.
Rehabilitation is effectively another phase of a mining, which is undertaken both progressively over the life of the mine as well as at cessation of mining (i.e. total life cycle of a mine).
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.
Read more in the Exploration and mining rehabilitation fact sheet [ 175 KB].
Regulatory System for Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation commitments and post mining land use objectives are established as part of the development approval/EIS phase of a mining operation and approved by a determining authority such as Department of Planning and Environment or a local council under the Environment Planning & Assessment Act 1979. Resources & Energy’s role under the Mining Act 1992 is to regulate rehabilitation activities to ensure that the conditions of a development approval issued under the Environment Planning & Assessment Act 1979 are met.
Resources and Energy’s regulatory approach to rehabilitation is outcomes focussed whilst being flexible to allow for industry to develop and implement innovative and best practice methodologies specific to a site. The key elements of Resources and Energy’s regulatory approach to rehabilitation are listed below.
- Titleholders are required to develop a Mining Operations Plan (MOP), soon to be called a Rehabilitation Management Plan (RMP), which includes the following:
- objectives and criteria for rehabilitation, which are required to be met for rehabilitation before Resources and Energy will relinquish the mining lease and any associated rehabilitation security bond;
- proposed rehabilitation plans including a progressive rehabilitation schedule for the entire life cycle of a mine;
- defined key risks and opportunities that need to be addressed to achieve successful rehabilitation;
- the range of risk-based rehabilitation controls and methodologies;
- detailed monitoring programs designed to measure performance and compliance against the criteria as well as promote adaptive management processes.
- In regards to exploration activities, titleholders are be required to comply with a Rehabilitation Code and conditions of a title;
- Title holders are required to report on the performance of rehabilitation on an annual basis against MOP/RMP and development approval commitments.
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 Resources & Energy Guideline ESB28 – Environmental Incident Reporting Requirements (66 KB PDF).
Resources & Energy is responsible for investigating community complaints and environmental incidents. A range of compliance and enforcement mechanisms are available in accordance with Resources & Energy's legislative and policy framework including penalty infringement notices and, if required, prosecution. Resources & Energy'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 Resources & Energy 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.
Resources & Energy 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.
- 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]
- *NEW* ESG2: Guideline for Review of Environmental Factors [411.2 KB PDF]
- ESG3-Mining-Operations-Plan-MOP-Guidelines-September-2013.pdf [6.9 MB PDF]
- ESB28 Environmental Incident Reporting Requirements [77.5 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 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]
- ESF2 Rehabilitation Cost Estimate Submission (fillable form) [262.0 KB DOC]
- +61 (0)2 4931 6590
- +61 (0)2 4931 6790 (attn: Environmental Sustainability Unit)
- Environmental Sustainability Unit, NSW Department of Industry, Resources & Energy Division, PO Box 344 Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310
- 516 High Street Maitland NSW 2320 Map