Mining rehabilitation policy under review.

Determined: Camberwell resident Deidre Olofsson and Warkworth resident John Krey. Picture: Peter Stoop
Determined: Camberwell resident Deidre Olofsson and Warkworth resident John Krey. Picture: Peter Stoop

THE State Government is reviewing mine rehabilitation policies and process, including the management of final voids, following increasing concern about the mining industry’s long-term environmental impacts. 

The future of thousands of hectares of land hinges on the outcome mine site rehabilitation projects across the Hunter.

While some rehabilitation projects have resulted in the revegetation of significant areas, there is a push for the introduction of more stringent requirements following the completion of mining projects.

Department of Planning and Environment, director of resources policy Stephen Barry recently said a “systematic and evidence-based approach” was being taken to the review.

This included identifying issues and problems with the present rehabilitation processes, benchmarking against national and international regulatory practices and the development of new options.

“We need to go through this systematic process to ensure we can provide good advice to government as to what changes may be required,” Mr Barry said. 

“...we can’t preempt what form these changes may take. However, I can say that the lack of guidance on the acceptability and management of final voids has been identified as an issue and we are looking at this in detail.”

Mining voids are effectively large indentations left in the landscape after a mine site has been in-filled. It is feared that poorly planned or managed voids could turn into toxic lakes.

Camberwell resident Deidre Olofsson prepared a catalogue of Hunter mining voids in 2014.

Her research found more than 6000 of voids could be left behind. Warkworth mine alone would create a 880 hectare void. 

Open cut mining operations take place within 500 metres of Camberwell village. Ms Olofsson said tougher regulations were required for rehabilitation. 

“If this village was in the USA the surface mining control and reclamation act of 1977 and the public law act would take effect,” she said. 

“There would definitely be a different set of circumstances in relation to voids.” 

Ms Olofsson said there were significant inconsistencies relating to information about mining voids. 

“When you consider the rehabilitation of very sensitive areas like the Warkworth Sands, what standard will be used? If the rehabilitation fails what is the cost of extinction? 

A department spokeswoman said the review would build on work done as part of the Integrated Mining Policy to ensure that NSW has a robust and transparent policy framework in place.