Safeguarding the environment
Australia’s coal industry is actively engaged in the practical and effective integration of environmental, social and economic aspects of resource development
The industry’s approach to environmental management centres on a goal of continuous improvement
The industry supports effective environmental regulation that is built on the practical concepts of sustainable development, sound science, transparency and scrutiny, procedural certainty, and meaningful community engagement.
The key features of the industry’s approach to environmental management are:
- Land: While mining leases cover around 0.64 per cent of the Australian landmass, the minerals industry footprint of mined and related lands occupies only 0.3 per cent. The industry is committed to ensuring mined lands are available both for alternative land uses consecutively with mining (including for biodiversity conservation) and to support alternative post-mining uses (including agriculture).
- Water: A high value, low volume water user, mining accounts for less than 3.5 per cent of Australia’s water consumption. Mining operations seek to both utilise low quality water not suitable for other industrial users (including hyper saline waters and primary treated sewage) and to maximise the reuse efficiency of each water unit on site.
- Energy: Integrating operational needs with the commitment to sustainable development, the industry is actively pursuing the use of low emissions technologies and energy-efficiency measures. Energy efficiency must always be balanced with water use efficiency.
- Emissions management: The industry is actively minimising risks to occupational, community and environmental health through emission, transmission and exposure management for approved releases to land, air and water.
- Biodiversity: The industry has adopted an increasingly sophisticated approach to biodiversity assessment and management centred on prevention and management of biodiversity impacts from mining and the identification of opportunities to enhance biodiversity conservation. The minerals industry has contributed to the recovery of a number of threatened species and contributes extensive data and resources to national biodiversity research.
- Materials stewardship: The industry continues to reduce both its resource intensity and to minimise its production of wastes through facilitating and encouraging responsible product design, use, re-use, recycling and disposal of our products. The industry is also engaged in numerous whole-of-life product management and certification schemes in line with leading global practice, and was integral to the approach adopted for oversize tyres under the Australian Government’s Tyre Stewardship Scheme.
Specific initiatives to give practical effect to this management approach include:
- Contributing to reforms under the EPBC Act, to ensure strong environmental protection focussed on key threatening processes to the environment, while delivering industry certainty and efficiency;
- Development of frameworks for land use planning and natural resource management to deliver transparent, rigorous and sustainable decision making processes founded in science and to better support the coexistence of mining, agriculture and conservation;
- Adoption of a nationally consistent industry water accounting framework, including both water volume and quality measures, to drive transparency and water use efficiency;
- Supporting the global harmonisation of chemicals and hazardous substances management to ensure comprehensive, effective protection of the environment and community health; and
- Ongoing investment in the search for global climate change solutions, particularly low emissions fossil fuel technologies.
1 Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program, Land Use Summary Australia, Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program, 19 October 2009.