Regulation of tourist mines

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

The WHS (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Act and its regulation apply to mining operations as well as 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 Division of Resources & Energy.

If a mine is classed as a tourist mine under the WHS (Mines and Petroleum Sites) laws, then it is regulated by the NSW Department of Industry, Division of Resources & Energy, Mine Safety.

If the tourism operation is not considered a mine or a tourist mine for the purposes of the WHS (Mines and Petroleum Sites) laws, then only the WHS Act and WHS Regulation will apply and the operation will be under the jurisdiction of SafeWork NSW.

What are tourist mines?

Tourist mines are workplaces previously used for mining operations that are now used only for tourism purposes. Such former mines are only considered tourist mines if certain prescribed hazards existed at the site when it operated as a mine and remain present at the site.

The WHS (Mines and Petroleum Sites) 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 are prescribed hazards?

The prescribed hazards are the same as principal hazards. They include any activity, process, procedure, plant, structure, substance, situation or other circumstance relating to the carrying out of mining operations that has a reasonable potential to result in multiple deaths in a single incident or a series of recurring incidents.

The hazards can include:

  • 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
  • fire or explosion
  • gas outbursts
  • spontaneous combustion
  • subsidence
  • any other hazard identified by the mine operator.

There must be a reasonable potential that the hazard could, if not appropriately managed, result in multiple deaths in a single incident or a series of recurring incidents. The fact there could be a hazard listed above is not sufficient for it to meet the definition of a prescribed hazard for a tourist mine. The hazard must be accompanied by the reasonable potential it could result in multiple fatalities.

Permits

Permits are not required to operate a tourist mine. However, the mine operator must give the regulator notice 1 month before the proposed commencement of a tourist mine.

Does a mine become a tourist mine if it starts offering tours?

No. Any mines where minerals are being extracted or other mining operations are occurring is considered a mine (rather than a tourist mine), even if tourist or educational activities such as site tours are also conducted. Such tourist or educational activities are to be managed together with the other mining operations occurring at the mine.

What are the obligations on operators of tourist mines?

In addition to provisions under the WHS legislation all relevant provisions of the WHS (Mines and Petroleum Sites) legislation apply except where specifically excluded for tourist mines. Key requirements include:

  • notifying the regulator about the mine operator
  • notifying the regulator of the proposed commencement or other specified event, such as suspension or closure, of the tourist mine (clause 129)
  • 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 and visitors (clauses 103-106)
  • notifying the regulator of certain incidents (including notifiable incidents and high potential incidents)
  • keeping a mine record.

The safety management system for a tourist mine

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 tourist 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.

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