Mines face stricter conditions under a series of proposed rehabilitation reforms

Under the proposals by the NSW Resource Regulator mining leases would have new conditions added requiring companies to regularly report on rehabilitation progress and provide updated rehabilitation management plans.

Work in progress: Rehabilitation at the edge of the Mount Pleasant Coal Mine for in Muswellbrook. The government is pushing for higher standards of rehabilitation.
 Work in progress: Rehabilitation at the edge of the Mount Pleasant Coal Mine for in Muswellbrook. The government is pushing for higher standards of rehabilitation.

The state government has come under sustained criticism for being too lenient regarding rehabilitation conditions in areas such as the Hunter.

In addition to ongoing environmental degradation, poor rehabilitation contributes to poor air and water quality.

Five Hunter coal mines failed government audits of their rehabilitation works in mid 2019, sparking fears the environment and taxpayers were being exposed to significant risk.

Mt Thorley Warkworth, Muswellbrook Coal, Ravensworth Operations, Rix's Creek North Coal Mine and Rix's Creek South Coal Mine failed to meet environmental management and rehabilitation compliance standards.

Among other issues, the Resources Regulator uncovered ongoing delays in rehabilitation works, erosion features ignored, unexplained areas of low species diversity and poor record keeping.

In a fact sheet accompanying the proposed changes, the regulator said there was a need for stronger requirements for progressive rehabilitation of mine sites, starting early in a mine's lifecycle.

"The (proposed) reforms introduce regulatory tools and set clear, focused requirements for rehabilitation throughout a mine's life, from the mine design stage to closure," the regulator said.

"These new conditions will replace existing rehabilitation conditions on current mining leases and will be added to all new mining leases through the regulation. Progressive rehabilitation, rehabilitation risk assessment, annual reporting and detailed rehabilitation management planning will be required through the new mining lease conditions."