The 'social licence' for mining in Australia is increasingly linked to environmental outcomes and what land uses can be made available following mine closure. As a result, the sufficiency of mine rehabilitation practices across Australia, and in particular the extent of progressive rehabilitation being undertaken, has attracted increasing scrutiny over the last few years.
The rehabilitation and closure of mines is more heavily regulated than ever before, with greater levels of accountability and enforcement being called for by community and environmental groups. The reputational stakes have also never been higher for mine operators who fail to meet regulator and community expectations in relation to rehabilitation outcomes and post-mining land uses.
Complete rehabilitation and relinquishment of tenure for former mine sites is difficult to achieve and extremely rare. Only a handful of examples exist across Australia. To date, no large, open cut mines in Australia have achieved full relinquishment.
While end of mine life and closure may be many years away, early planning for rehabilitation and mine closure and regular review of closure plans throughout a mine's operational life represents best practice and is increasingly entrenched in legal requirements.
Effective forward planning for rehabilitation and closure can improve the efficiency of rehabilitation and assist in achieving full relinquishment, while minimising residual risk.
In the following pages, we explore a range of considerations that should be factored into planning for mine rehabilitation and closure, including:
- identifying regulatory requirements and setting clear objectives, including in relation to post-mining land uses;
- managing progressive rehabilitation;
- the evolution of mine closure plans;
- considerations for mines in care and maintenance;
- seeking the return of rehabilitation bonds;
- staying abreast of recent and upcoming reforms;
- requirements under contamination and Commonwealth environment laws;
- minimising long-term legal risk;
- managing stakeholder expectations; and
- establishing commercial frameworks to support successful rehabilitation.
Allens. (2020). Mine rehabilitation & closure: Minimising risk and achieving relinquishment. Retrieved from https://www.allens.com.au/insights-news/insights/2020/08/Mine-rehabilitation-and-closure/