Backlog of mine subsidence claims to go, says new agency chief

Katherine McInnes

Katherine McInnes

THE state government has pledged to work its way through a backlog of about 200 mine subsidence claims, some of which have been in dispute for 10 years.

As the Newcastle Herald reported last week, the government is overhauling its mine subsidence responsibilities and replacing the Mine Subsidence Board with a new agency, Subsidence Advisory NSW.

The new agency’s chief executive, Katherine McInnes, said on Wednesday that about 140 of the 200 claims were still waiting for site inspections when she took over, but this number was now down to under 100.

Under the changes, claims against old or abandoned mines would still be funded from a pool of money built up over decades from a mine subsidence levy collected from coal companies.

Damage caused by operating mines would be rectified by the mine operator, ending what Ms McInnes said was an unacceptable amount of cross-subsidisation.

She said open-cut mines had paid 65 per cent of total levy contributions over the past 15 years – or about $15 million a year – but caused no subsidence. About 90 per cent of subsidence claims came from active mines and the bulk of those claims were generated by two mines in the southern coalfields. The new system would make mines accountable for the damage they caused and give them incentive to minimise it.

Although active mining companies would be responsible for fixing their own damage, Ms McInnes said Subsidence Advisory NSW would “shepherd” individual claimants through the process, assigning a case officer to each claim.

She said the government would appoint a panel of expert assessors to look at each claim, and anyone whose claim was rejected would be able to appeal to the secretary of the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. The government would consult over the coming months, and hoped to have new laws passed by mid-2017, with the new system to start from 2018.

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