Environment Victoria has today welcomed the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry’s report on mine rehabilitation and said it gives the green light to the Andrews Government to reform the way the state’s coal mines are rehabilitated and regulated to protect the environment, the community and the public interest.
The report makes 19 recommendations about how to improve mine rehabilitation at the Latrobe Valley coal mines, covering the need to increase the existing rehabilitation bonds and strengthen legislation, and the importance of an independent authority to coordinate decision making on rehabilitation.
Environment Victoria’s Safe Climate Campaign Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle today said:
“Today’s report gives the Andrews Government the green light to overhaul Victoria’s mine rehabilitation laws and practices and to deliver better outcomes for the Latrobe Valley. For decades, mine rehabilitation has been forgotten or an afterthought, but how mines are cleaned up is hugely important to the communities surrounded by these mines.
“We welcome the interim increase of the mine rehabilitation bonds, but the proposed minimum amounts ($34 million for Yallourn, $37 million for Hazelwood and $56 million for Loy Yang) still fall well short of independent assessments of what it will cost to rehabilitate each mine. Recommendation 10 provides the Minister with an opportunity to cover this shortfall once the Department’s own bond review is complete.
“Current government policy requires that bonds cover the full cost of rehabilitation, but this has never been properly implemented. Now that we understand the real scale of the rehabilitation problem, this is not the time to be weakening government policy and requiring less than the full amount. With question marks over the future of both Hazelwood and Yallourn as Australia moves to clean up its energy supply, it is important that the Victorian public isn’t exposed to a massive rehabilitation bill.”
The inquiry’s report raised concerns about the current plan to fill the mine voids with water at the end of their life.
“While the Board finds that lakes are the most viable final landform, they also acknowledge that the successful creation of lakes is not a given.
“Until we understand the costs of using Victoria’s precious water to fill coal mines, we can’t be confident that lakes are a suitable solution. The big unknown of turning the mines into lakes is where the water could come from. We welcome the recommendation requiring various government agencies to properly understand the environmental and social impacts of diverting water away from Gippsland river catchments to fill coal mines.
“Evidence from a number of expert witnesses during the inquiry made clear that all stakeholders need to be involved in decisions about what the mines will become, and this must involve meaningful community participation. The proposed independent Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner is an appropriate organisation to drive this process.”
Recommendation 17 sets out a range of amendments that are needed in theMineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act to promote better mine rehabilitation outcomes.
“A big problem has been that ‘successful rehabilitation’ hasn’t been properly defined anywhere. The legislation needs to make clear what standards are expected of mine operators, and how mine operators will be held accountable for achieving those standards,” said Dr Aberle.
Dr Nicholas Aberle, Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager, Office: (03) 9341 8112 Mobile: 0402 512 121 firstname.lastname@example.org