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Who will clean up mining mess?

IN LATE March, a two-year Senate inquiry into the rehabilitation of mining and resource projects failed to reach an agreement and it is unknown whether the Federal Government, which is not obliged to respond, will act on any of the inquiry’s recommendations.

In WA there are more than 10,000 abandoned mine sites which ceased operating due to falling commodity prices, spiralling costs, changes in government policy or overt regulatory breaches.

The 200-page Senate report said “Abandoned mines occur when mining leases or titles no longer exist, and responsibility for rehabilitation cannot be allocated to an individual, company or organisation responsible for the original mining activities.

“Because of this, responsibility for any remedial works that are required to rectify environmental problems on these sites generally falls to government and, ultimately, Australian taxpayers.”

In other words, companies can exploit legal loopholes to avoid their environmental obligations and we are left to deal with the mess.

One tactic is to place mines into an indefinite period of ‘care and maintenance’ during which no rehabilitation occurs on the site which has effectively ceased operating.

Another, is larger resource companies on-selling their stake to a smaller company which cannot feasibly undertake the rehabilitation obligation the original company signed on for.

During the Senate inquiry’s visit to WA in March 2018 it was revealed that companies don’t have to disclose mine closure/rehabilitation costs and that by going into liquidation they can walk away without meeting their environmental obligations.

A Mining Rehabilitation Fund of industry contributions was set up in 2012 to rehabilitate sites of companies that have gone broke, and more than a few have, but the legislation to update mine site rehabilitation obligations has not been updated.

The inquiry heard from The Environmental Defenders Office of Australia which determined that incomplete or inadequate mine site rehabilitation can lead to serious long-term environmental and social costs.

Given that the taxpayer has footed the bill for the two-year inquiry which visited six states and looked at numerous mine sites, AHMAG hopes that the government will follow up on the recommendations which will prevent mining companies from leaving future generations with a huge environmental and financial debt.

Congratulations to the Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day organisers for another top event and thanks to all who signed our petition to stop open-cut mining within a 100km radius of Perth.

Keep in touch at facebook.com.au/avonandhills or write to PO Box 111 Gidgegannup WA 6083.

  

Submission Update
STILL no news of when Mundaring Shire Council will discuss the Swan Gravel/Trico Resources application to extract gravel at Lot 3560 Toodyay Road Bailup.

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