Mine rehabilitation is the process of repairing the damage done by mining activity. This can involve simply making the site safe and stable, but global best practice strives to create a landscape that can support future uses of the land – such as returning it to an agricultural landscape or identifying new beneficial uses.
At a practical level, coal mine rehabilitation typically involves flattening the steep sides of the mine, covering exposed coal with soil and clay and revegetating the area with trees and grasses.
In 2014 the disused coal mine attached to Hazelwood Power Station near Morwell caught fire. The fire burned for 45 days, blanketing the surrounding area in toxic smoke and forcing evacuation of vulnerable residents.
The evidence heard at the inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire found that mine rehabilitation is the best way of preventing coal mines from catching on fire. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening fast enough. Only small areas are rehabilitated each year, leaving vast expanses of open-cut coal exposed, increasing the risk of fire and increasing the amount of coal dust being blown onto nearby communities.
Mine rehabilitation will also create hundreds of secure jobs. Our report estimates it could create between 450-600 long-lasting jobs in the Latrobe Valley (see Table 1).
Also, the rehabilitation bonds (like a rental bond) paid by the mine operators are supposed to cover the full cost of rehabilitation works, but currently the bonds are only set at about 10 percent of the full cost. This means Victorian taxpayers might be forced to foot the bill if mine operators don’t deliver on their rehabilitation obligations. Find out more from our recent report, ‘Preventing the Preventable’
*Polling by Essential Media Research, October 2014
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