THE outcomes of a recent compliance blitz by the NSW Resources Regulator should put the entire mining industry on notice that rehabilitation and care for the landscape are not negotiable, according to the Lock the Gate Alliance.
Four Hunter Valley coal mines, owned by some of the biggest companies in the country, were issued six notices to fix up their rehabilitation and other environmental management.
Although compliance rates were observed to be high regarding progressive rehab and general requirements under the Mining Act 1992, concerns were raised at Mt Thorley Warkworth, Muswellbrook Coal, Ravensworth Operations and Rix's Creek coal mines.
At Mt Thorley Warkworth, an inspection recognised ongoing delays in the progression of rehabilitation areas; limited documented records to address the risks to rehabilitation; and limited documented measures or actions to improve progressive rehabilitation performance.
An assessment identified several risks to the successful rehabilitation of Muswellbrook Coal that may require considerable time and resources to mitigate/rectify.
The risks are of concern given how close the site is to mine closure.
At Ravensworth Operations, an inspection identified erosion features on the lower slopes of the Western Emplacement Area, including scours and gully features, had not been repaired in accordance with the commitments in the approved Mining Operations Plan.
The review also highlighted areas of high weed density and unexplained areas of low species diversity within pasture rehabilitation at the Rix's Creek North Coal Mine.
"It is unacceptable for them to be failing on their rehabilitation and environmental management," Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said.
"This is especially true at a time when there is mounting concern about what legacy the mining industry is going to leave the people of this valley.
"When rehabilitation falls behind or is done poorly, it leads to an increase in air pollution and leaves future generations with the burden of cleaning up the mining companies' mess.
"It's heartening to see the Resources Regulator taking its responsibilities seriously to hold the mining companies to account.
"This damning report should put the whole industry on notice that rehabilitation and care for the landscape are not negotiable.
"We are coming to a crunch time for this region when the mining industry shifts from making profits to making amends, rehabilitating and cleaning up.
"It's vital this work be done progressively and to the highest standard to minimise the risk that the job will be left half-finished or worse."