Media Releases | 21st May, 2014

Government fails while Latrobe Valley slips and burns

21 May 2014

Environment Victoria has called for urgent action on the rehabilitation of coal operations across the state following serious concerns raised in an independent technical report.

The 2012/13 annual report of the Technical Review Board (TRB) was finally made public yesterday and highlights the government’s fundamental and continuing failure to act decisively to protect the coal communities and the environment from inadequately rehabilitated coal mines.

“The TRB reports show that the Government can’t manage the mines they already have, let alone deal with new mines that are being proposed,” said Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Nicholas Aberle.

“Before Morwell was blanketed in choking coal smoke from the Hazelwood fire, the TRB had told the government that proposed mine rehabilitation measures were ‘well short of what could reasonably be considered as adequate’. The government’s failure to act quickly has compromised community health and eroded community confidence.”

Environment Victoria has been advocating improved rehabilitation standards in Victorian coal mines and welcomes the TRB’s clear acknowledgement that current practices are inadequate and undermined by significant uncertainties.

“The TRB noted that rehabilitation is ‘far more complex’ than it was thought to be when the original requirements were established. This means the government will need to review the existing mine rehabilitation bonds to be more in line with this new understanding of what is involved with mines of this magnitude.

“Companies and government have been cutting costs and corners and the Latrobe Valley is paying the price with unstable mines, destructive fires and second rate rehabilitation,” said Dr Aberle. “There is a culture of denial in government over the negative impacts of coal operations and an unacceptable unwillingness to require best practice.”

Environment Victoria recently released a detailed and highly critical analysis of the systemic failures that led to the recent Hazelwood fire. This work revealed that there had been no communication between the government and company in relation to rehabilitation requirements at Hazelwood, nor had the government once assessed the mine’s rehabilitation works since 2009.

“Instead of channeling public funds into planned new coal operations in the Valley, the government needs to take meaningful action on the serious problems at the existing mines. We have had enough warnings and enough promises, now we need real action on rehabilitation.”

Note: The Technical Review Board (TRB) was constituted in 2009 following the Warden’s Inquiry into the collapse of the North East Batter at Yallourn Mine. A primary function of the TRB is to provide independent advice to assist the Minister for Energy and Resources, the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation and industry to better manage ground control associated with mining in Victoria, in order to mitigate the risks this presents to public safety, environment, public infrastructure and security of power supply.


The full TRB report can be accessed at…