During the catastrophic 45-day Hazelwood coal mine fire in February and March 2014, it became evident that better mine rehabilitation practices could have reduced the severity of the fire. The report of the first Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry (September 2014) made no clear recommendations on mine rehabilitation.
After the first inquiry we worked with community group Voices of the Valley to show community support for speeding up mine rehabilitation in the Latrobe Valley. Our report Preventing the Preventable outlined the benefits of accelerated rehabilitation, including the significant job creation potential. This helped make mine rehabilitation a major issue in the seat of Morwell in the lead-up to the 2014 State Election. As one of it’s election promises, the ALP committed to re-open the Inquiry to look at (among other issues) rehabilitation options at all three Latrobe Valley coal mines.
The second Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry commenced in May 2015. Our submission to this second inquiry (in August 2015) argued for: (1) rehabilitation bonds to be urgently increased to match the real cost of the work; (2) clear criteria to be determined for “successful” rehabilitation; and (3) the need for the La Trobe Valley community to be a key stakeholder in decisions about rehabilitation works. We participated in hearings for the second Hazelwood Inquiry (in December 2015) as the only party to the proceedings other than the mine operators and the State Government.
The report of the second Hazelwood Mine Fire inquiry was released in April 2016 and made strong recommendations regarding mine rehabilitation, picking up many of the points made by our legal team. The Andrews Government adopted all the recommendations of the report, including a significant increase in rehabilitation bonds, the creation of a new independent body to coordinate rehabilitation planning, and a raft of improvements to laws and regulations.
During the Hazelwood mine fire in early 2014, the parts of the mine that didn't burn were those areas that had been rehabilitated.This led to a two-year campaign, and a stunning announcement from the Victorian Premier in April 2016.