From 1 February 2015 health and safety in opal and gemstone mining in NSW will be regulated under the Work Health and Safety (Mines) Act 2013 and the supporting Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulation 2014.  

The WHS (Mines) Act and its regulation apply to activities carried out for the purposes of extracting minerals, including opals. They apply in addition to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. This consolidated work health and safety legislative framework is administered by the Division of Resources and Energy.

The WHS (Mines) laws don't apply to an activity carried out in relation to fossicking or the extraction of minerals on private land for the private and non-commercial use of the owner of the land. 

What obligations apply to opal and gemstone miners?

All relevant provisions of the WHS (Mines) Act and WHS (Mines) Regulation apply except where specifically excluded for opal and gemstone mines. Key requirements include:

  • notifying the regulator of the mine operator
  • managing risks to health and safety associated with mining operations (clauses 9-12)
  • developing, implementing, maintaining and reviewing a safety management system
  • providing information to adjoining mine owners
  • emergency planning
  • obligations in relation to contractors (for example, if contractors provide drilling services)
  • information, training and instruction for workers
  • notifying the regulator of certain incidents (including notifiable incidents and high potential incidents)
  • keeping a mine record.

What systems, plans and procedures are needed?

The safety management system must provide a comprehensive and integrated system for the management of all aspects of risks to health and safety relating to the mine's operation. This includes:

  • the nature, complexity and location of the mining operations, and
  • the risks associated with those operations.

Operators of opal or gemstone mines are not required to prepare principal mining hazard management plans and principal control plans. Instead, they must ensure that the safety management system for the mine sets out the systems, procedures, plans and other control measures that will be used to control any risks to health and safety at the mine associated with the following:

  • ground or strata failure
  • inundation or inrush of any substance
  • mine shafts and winding systems
  • roads or other vehicle operating areas
  • air quality or dust or other airborne contaminants
  • the mechanical aspects of plant or structures
  • electricity
  • ventilation
  • a hazard identified by the mine operator that has a reasonable potential to result in multiple deaths in a single incident or a series of recurring incidents.

Full list of exclusions for opal mines

Clause number

Topic

Specific matter

14(1)(c)

Safety management system

(c) the systems, procedures, plans and other control measures that will be used to control risks to health and safety associated with mining operations at the mine, including:

(i) the principal mining hazard management plans for the mine prepared under Division 2, and

(ii) the principal control plans for the mine, and

(iii) in the case of an underground mine—the ventilation control plan and ventilation plan prepared for the mine

under Subdivision 2 of Division 5, and

(iv) in the case of an underground coal mine—the matters required under Subdivision 3 of Division 5,

Part 2, Divisions 2 and 3

(Clauses 23-26)

Principal mining hazard management plans and principal control plans

All

27

Communication between outgoing and incoming shifts

All

47

Winding systems

All

48

Ropes

all

55

Air quality—minimum standards for ventilated air

All

59(3)

Ventilation system—further requirements

The mine operator must ensure that, at every point in areas of the mine where persons work or travel, the ventilation system for the mine provides at least one cubic metre of air per second.

60

Monitoring and testing of ventilation system

All

61

Modelling to take place before changes to ventilation system

All

62

Duty to prepare ventilation control plan

All

63

Review of ventilation control plan

All

88(2)(a)(ii)

Emergency planning

(ii) that a record of all persons who are underground at a mine (other than an opal mine) at any given time and each person's likely location is accurately maintained and is readily available in an emergency

89

Consultation in preparation of emergency plan

All

100

Self-rescuers

All

122

Survey plan of mine must be prepared

All

129

Duty to notify regulator of other matters

All

130

Quarterly reports

All

Schedule 3

Clause 4

Notification of High risk activities

Development of a new mine entry

Schedule 10

Statutory functions 

All

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