The Minerals Council of Australia, Victorian Division’s (MCA) is pleased to make a submission on the above mentioned Draft Guideline.

The MCA only became aware of this Draft Guideline on Monday 5th November and is grateful to have been given a week extension to enable full consideration of the document.

Specific distances

The minerals industry has long operated on a platform of risk management. Prescribing specific distances does not accord with the principles of risk management. Whilst we acknowledge that “In some instances, the appropriate separation distance may vary from that recommended in this Guideline as a result of site-specific operational or environmental conditions. In such cases, variations to the recommended separation distances may be acceptable, subject to detailed assessment by responsible authorities, and when resolved to the satisfaction of the EPA”, i.e. the specified distances are default distances (above which Clause 52.10 of the Victorian Planning Provisions requires the responsible authority to refer a planning application to EPA). The “case-by-case” approach provided for in the Index would allow the minerals industry to undertake a risk assessment in determining separation distances.

The separation distance prescribed for ‘Mine for other minerals’ no longer stipulates if it is for open cut or underground mining. If the distances are to be applicable to underground mines this is problematic as there are underground mines operating both within and under towns in Victoria, meaning that ventilation shafts may be within 250m metres of sensitive land use areas.

The new coal category causes some concern. The 1000m distance is now from “Premises involving crushing, screening, stockpiling and transport to market” rather than the previous definition related to an open cut mine. This assumes that all coal development will be for the purposes of power generation and does not acknowledge a future lignite export industry. The new criteria would require a 1000m distance between any infrastructure built to stockpile, transport and export to market and any sensitive land use areas. This is impractical and MCA recommends that “stockpiling and transport to market” clause be removed from the guidelines.

More information is required to clarify what is included under “Gas extraction”. Does this include only conventional Natural Gas development or does it intend to cover the range of unconventional gases - tight, shale and coals seam gas?

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