Submission to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry (reopened)

This submission highlights the minerals industry’s high level policy and regulatory objectives on risk management and rehabilitation while leaving the technical discussion and options for rehabilitation and mine closure to mine operators and specialist engineering firms. The submission makes no comment on the specific mine fire.

The minerals industry is committed to sustainable development and strives for continuous improvement attuned with environmental and community expectations. The industry has developed a number of policy positions and leading practice guidance that address life of mine impacts.

Mining operations, both small and large, are complex, dynamic, technically advanced and must continually respond to market and regulatory conditions. Policy and regulatory settings must be cognisant of this and allow for flexibility in achieving regulatory objectives.

The minerals industry supports the 2014 Board of Inquiry report into the Mine Fire, namely that the 'State:

  • bring forward the commencement date of s.16 of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment Act 2014 (Vic), to facilitate the requirement that approved work plans specifically address fire prevention, mitigation and suppression
  • acquire the expertise necessary to monitor and enforce compliance with fire risk measures adopted by the Victorian coal mining industry under both the mine licensing and occupational health and safety regimes.'

The MCA urges the 2015 Board of Inquiry to carefully consider any specific recommendations around rehabilitation and ensure that they are based on international leading practice methods and suitable to the underlying geological and landscape conditions.

Rehabilitation is a complex issue that is considered prior to mineral extraction and further evolves over time with mine development. Each site has unique attributes and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not possible.

The minerals industry therefore continues to advocate that:

  • Risk management underpin all policy and regulatory settings
  • These settings acknowledge that each mine has a unique set of circumstances and risks that require holistic, rather than individual, risk management
  • Economic, social and environmental considerations be weighted to acknowledge the significant contribution mining makes to regional economic development
  • Consistent and aligned regulatory practice with risk management expertise recruited into regulatory agencies is essential
  • Rehabilitation bond models that are efficient and effective be applied in a consistent manner across all sites, encourage progressive rehabilitation and do not assume all sites will default.

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