WA mine rehabilitation reforms gaining pace
The West Australian Government has introduced a piece of legislation central to its overhaul of environmental regulation.
Revegetation of the outer slopes of a gold mine waste rock dump with saltbush in the arid zone of WA, photo: Murdoch University.
State Parliament read the Mining Rehabilitation Fund Bill on July 15. It is designed to replace the inadequate funding available under the current bond system by establishing a pooled reserve funded by miners.
The Department of Mines said the State’s liability is anticipated to grow into the future. It estimates the current rehabilitation liability for abandoned mines exceeds $100m.
There are also around 300 sites currently on care and maintenance where the land is yet to be fully rehabilitated, some of which are likely to be abandoned over the next decade.
Minister for the Department of Mines Norman Moore said “I am confident the proposed fund will provide a more flexible and cost effective system for industry, while meeting public expectations for higher standards of rehabilitation and mine closure.”
The Bill will require tenement holders to submit data to the department on the number of hectares of disturbed land in each tenement. This will be used to calculate the cost, in dollars per hectare, of land rehabilitation
The levy will be charged annually at a percentage, likely to be set initially at 1% of the closure liability estimate.
The Bill is part of a wider move from the State Government, badged the Reforming Environmental Regulation Strategy, aiming to implement a risk based regulation framework.
Chief executive of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, Simon Bennison, welcomed the move.
“This is a win:win for all stakeholders involved in the rehabilitation of mining and exploration activities.
Previously, mine closure costs were not assessed in West Australia. The department’s environment director, Phil Gorey, told AJM in 2011 that miners were not required to calculate the cost of rehabilitation of their mines
“The potential environmental liability faced by Western Australia from closed mines in monetary terms is not known… This is a requirement which the department will impose.”