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Regulating Mine Rehabilitation in NSW - The rehabilitation of mines is a key priority for the NSW Government and the mining sector and is subject to strict requirements and monitoring.
NSW Mine Rehabilitation - Illustrating the regulatory framework for mine rehabilitation to ensure effective rehabilitation outcomes are achieved.
The NSW Resources Regulator is responsible for regulating rehabilitation under the Mining Act 1992 and the conditions of the relevant mining lease. This includes:
- ensuring rehabilitation is carried out progressively, that is, as soon as reasonably practicable following disturbance
- ensuring rehabilitation achieves the approved rehabilitation objectives and rehabilitation completion criteria
- requiring proponents to prepare and implement a mining operations plan (MOP) / rehabilitation management plan (RMP)
- requiring proponents to prepare and submit an annual rehabilitation report that demonstrates how rehabilitation is progressing against approved performance measures and timeframes
- ensuring rehabilitation activities achieve the final post-mining landform and land use(s) approved under the development consent
- monitoring and enforcing rehabilitation activities to ensure that exploration and mining-affected land is left in a safe and stable condition.
The Regulator uses a range of regulatory tools under the Mining Act 1992 to ensure that rehabilitation is undertaken in a timely manner and in accordance with approved commitments. This includes being able to direct a former holder of an exploration licence or mining lease to complete rehabilitation works even after a mining title has been relinquished.
Rehabilitation is the treatment or management of land or water that has been disturbed by exploration or mining to ensure a safe, stable environment is established. Rehabilitation supports the re-establishment of native ecosystems, groundwater systems, agriculture and a variety of rural, urban and industrial land uses.
In practice, rehabilitation can cover a range of activities such as:
- demolition of infrastructure
- sealing mine entries and boreholes
- remediating contaminated land
- capping tailings dams
- geotechnical stabilisation
- making safe infrastructure that may be retained for future use, such as buildings and heritage items
- groundwater and surface water treatment
- establishing a final landform
Rehabilitation is effectively another phase of mining, which is undertaken both progressively over the life of the mine, as well as the end of mining (ie total life cycle of a mine)
Regulatory system for rehabilitation
To develop a mining project in NSW, a proponent must apply for a development consent under the Environment Planning & Assessment Act 1979. During the assessment of a development application, the consent authority (being the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for State significant mining developments or the local council for other mines) evaluates the potential environmental, social and economic impacts associated with the proposed mine. If the mine is approved, the required rehabilitation outcomes are incorporated into the conditions of the development consent. These conditions generally include requirements for:
- rehabilitation to comply with specific objectives, performance targets and timeframes
- rehabilitation to be carried out progressively, that is, as soon as reasonably practicable following disturbance
- rehabilitation to achieve the approved final landform and land use
Once development consent has been granted, the proponent is required to obtain a mining lease from Mining, Exploration and Geoscience (within Regional NSW).
Rehabilitation security bonds
A rehabilitation security bond must also be provided before exploration and mining activities begin. As of January 2021, the NSW Government held about $3.3 billion in security bonds for rehabilitation of exploration and mining impacts. The security deposit covers the full cost of all rehabilitation and mine closure activities required if a mining company defaults on their rehabilitation obligations.
Security deposits held by financial year
Before a security bond is returned the mining company must provide evidence to demonstrate to the Regulator that they:
- have met the rehabilitation objectives
- have achieved the rehabilitation completion criteria
- have implemented the final landform and final land use.
Visit our rehabilitation security deposits page to learn more.
Rehabilitation in NSW
In some areas, it is difficult to tell where a mine was previously located. Many mines in NSW have successfully completed rehabilitation. Publications about rehabilitation can be found here.
The sequence of images displayed below illustrate an example of rehabilitation works of a site captured over eight years, from 2003 to 2011.
For more information regarding exploration, mining rehabilitation and regulatory processes, download the facts sheet below.