11th May 2017

An audit report on mine rehabilitation released today by the NSW Auditor-General has been welcomed by the Department of Planning and Environment, with work already underway that addresses some of the recommendations.

As part of the Mining Rehabilitation Security Deposits Report, which commenced in August 2016, four recommendations were made regarding improvements to security deposit scheme processes, mine rehabilitation and closure plans, government oversight and the review of funding for potential future residual risk issues.

While the Department only took responsibility for mine rehabilitation from Department of Industry on April 1, some work addressing the recommendations is underway.

Dr David Blackmore, Director Environmental Sustainability, said that a number of measures have already been employed by the Department to address the recommendations in the Auditor-General report.

“The report acknowledges that the Department’s security deposit scheme processes have improved in recent years and that there are well-advanced plans for further improvement,” Dr Blackmore said.

“For instance, in June we will be introducing an updated cost calculation tool that will assist in calculating the amount of security needed depending on the mine,” Dr Blackmore said.

“In the last two years, the Department in its systematic review of rehabilitation securities have raised this by almost $1 billion to $2.3 billion to ensure no liability is transferred at the end of mine life.

“Determining the exact security needed for a mine is not a simple equation but the new calculator will help.”

An Australia-first rehabilitation Geographic Information System (GIS) will also be introduced by March 2018 to assist mining companies and Department environment officers to accurately record and track areas of disturbance and effectiveness of rehabilitation progress at each mining site in NSW.

“The rehabilitation GIS will be a very handy tool for government and industry alike. We are developing the best technology to ensure we can track rehab progress more thoroughly and quickly,” he said.

“To ensure the people of NSW are fully aware of the progressive rehabilitation underway, it will also be linked to an online portal accessible by the public.”

The Department is further addressing the recommendations through its Rehabilitation Reform Program across all mining titles which will:

  • streamline and improve enforceability, with an Annual Rehabilitation Report and better maintenance of compliance records;
  • improved processes for the accurate calculation of security deposits and a review of the collection of those deposits in order to minimise delays;
  • A new Rehabilitation and Assessment Protocol to improve the Department’s governance processes and regulatory oversight for rehabilitation;
  • A new Rehabilitation Performance Dashboard to identify industry best practice
  • Establishment of a robust framework to manage future mine rehabilitation.
  • Collaboration with agencies and consultation with national and international jurisdictions to review various mechanisms to address residual risk.
  • Development of innovative approaches to assessing and managing derelict mines.

“We welcome the Auditor-General’s report as the recommendations, especially with managing security deposits, make sense and it’s good to know we are on the right track.  However, I will note that we have never had a situation in NSW where the security deposit has had to be used to manage a mine rehabilitation issue.”