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Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Bill 2018 | Mine rehabilitation

mine rehabilitation laws affect waste ponds
New laws will require mine rehabilitation security.

New mine rehabilitation laws will aim to ensure mines clean up post-mining. The Queensland Parliament late in 2018 passed the Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Bill 2018. The new legislation aims to address the long-term issues associated with ineffective rehabilitation and risks around abandoned mines in Queensland for many years. With the State reportedly having more than 10,000 abandoned mines it’s a significant issue for Queensland and the legislation has been passed to help ensure the state improves its’ performance around abandoned mines.

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The new Act will introduce provisions that:

  •       strengthen the requirements for mine rehabilitation;
  •       improve the framework for financial assurance required of the resource industry to remove Governmental risk against financial failure.

The key features of the new law

  • Initial applications for resource authorities must now transparently propose how they intend to leave a site once they have finished with it, through a Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan (PRC Plan), to be assessed under the same process as an environmental authority under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld).
  • Public consultation must be undertaken on rehabilitation plans prior to a new mine being granted an environmental authority and can be scrutinized in Land Court mining objection hearings.
  • Improved justification and scrutiny of proposals to leave non-rehabilitated areas (non-use management areas) will be required.
  • Clearer and enforceable progressive rehabilitation requirements, with rehabilitation milestones having to be stipulated clearly in PRC Plans and less flexibility being provided in amendments to these milestones. Even existing operators will need to provide a new PRC plan to more clearly stipulate their rehabilitation requirements.
  • A prohibition for new mines against leaving voids on floodplains.
  • The requirement of a ‘public interest evaluation report’ by an independent entity qualified in mine rehabilitation, to assess the public interest in leaving non-rehabilitated areas of resource activity. Where a recommendation in a ‘public interest evaluation report’ is contrary to a Coordinator General condition, the Report will override the Coordinator-General’s condition (we strongly support this dent in the exceptional powers of the Coordinator-General to stipulate conditions).
  • Introduction of a new financial provisioning scheme to replace the current FA framework. This new framework includes a Financial Provisioning Fund (scheme fund), surety arrangements and the appointment of scheme manager to manage the scheme fund. Under the new scheme, financial assurance will be determined with reference to a risk assessment for each company undertaken by the scheme manager and may be provided by payment of a contribution to the scheme fund or the giving of a surety to the scheme manager.
  • Requirements to publish an annual report by the scheme manager and periodic actuarial reviews, and for an actuarial investigation of the scheme to be carried out five years after commencement and every subsequent three years.
  • Enabling the scheme fund to be used for abandoned mines, abandoned operating sites and research into rehabilitation techniques.

Exemptions for existing mines

Approximately 218 existing mines will not be subject to the rehabilitation standards so the legislation will aim to secure a future for new mining operations.

New Mining Rehabilitation Commissioner

The Queensland Government have said that a new mining Rehabilitation Commissioner may be appointed to oversee the activities associated with abandoned mines.

The Queensland Deputy Premier, during her second reading speech said that “This bill requires best practice management and minimisation of the risks to the environment. We will hold companies to their word and demand the world’s best practice. To that end, we will explore options for the appointment of a mining rehabilitation commissioner within 12 months to set standards and keep them current and to ensure that the rehabilitation commitments made by mining companies are kept.” [at 3493]

Reforms continuing

The Government says that “Over time, abandoned mines will be rehabilitated and rehabilitation techniques will be improved through grants provided from the Scheme’s Financial Provisioning Fund.”

Other reforms are still occurring.  The final reform discussion paper on Managing residual risks in Queensland is still in public commentary review.

In addition, issues outlined in previous discussion papers by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy on associated risks and proposed solutions, and the State’s abandoned mines legacy, continue to be progressed.

The Government says that “Further information on these initiatives will be made available once the appropriate policy approvals have been obtained.”

More information is available at

https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/management/env-policy-legislation/mining-rehabilitation-reforms.html

 

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