Mine site rehabilitation reforms aim to improve environmental and social outcomes in the Hunter Valley

Moonscape: The amendments to the Mining Regulation Act aim to modernise the framework and to ensure that progressive rehabilitation is carried out throughout the lifespan of every mine.
Moonscape: The amendments to the Mining Regulation Act aim to modernise the framework and to ensure that progressive rehabilitation is carried out throughout the lifespan of every mine.

Mining operators will be required to show their plans for progressive rehabilitation and to report annually on rehabilitation outcomes as part of a series of reforms designed to reduce the environmental impacts of mining.

The amendments to the NSW Mining Regulation Act aim to modernise the framework and to ensure that progressive rehabilitation is carried out throughout the lifespan of every mine.

The latest changes were welcomed by environment groups, but they warned more was needed.

"These changes are good, as far as they go, but they don't address two of the biggest rehabilitation challenges, which are how to get the companies to fill in their final voids, and how to pay for ongoing environmental monitoring and management after initial rehabilitation is completed and signed off and the security deposits returned," a Lock the Gate spokeswoman said.

The Newcastle Herald recently reported the findings of a Australia Institute report that estimated up to $25 billion could be needed to fill and rehabilitate the Upper Hunter's 23 final voids when open-cut mining ends.

Cost: It is estimated up to $25 billion could be needed to fill and rehabilitate the Upper Hunter's 23 final voids.

Cost: It is estimated up to $25 billion could be needed to fill and rehabilitate the Upper Hunter's 23 final voids.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who is also resources minister, said the new standard mining lease conditions for rehabilitation would be introduced on all mining leases and would give the industry a clearer and more consistent framework to comply with.

"Previously a mining operation may have been subject to several different rehabilitation and environmental management conditions, making compliance, monitoring, and regulation complex," he said.

"These changes will apply to all mining leases held in NSW and will help drive rehabilitation outcomes that have communities, the environment and the mining sector at their heart.

"These reforms will strengthen the rehabilitation framework, encouraging best practice rehabilitation and ultimately ensure that mining lease holders progressively rehabilitate mine sites over the course of their project and not just at closure."

The new changes will require all mining leaseholders to: prepare a management plan to identify and achieve rehabilitation outcomes, carry out rehabilitation risk assessments, develop a program to demonstrate an approach to progressive rehabilitation, make information about rehabilitation publicly available and report annually on rehabilitation performance.

Mr Barilaro said the changes would build on the government's commitment to improve regulation in the mining sector and the work of the NSW Resources Regulator to promote accountability and improve understanding of rehabilitation requirements.

"Providing more detailed public reporting and case studies will help to improve the transparency and understanding of mine rehabilitation," Mr Barilaro said.

"These changes will provide peace of mind to many."

The funding is part of the Legacy Mines program.

Mr Barilaro said the intensive remediation of the mine sites would increase safety, reduce impacts to the environment, and reinvigorate land for other uses such as for community parklands, tourist attractions or select business operations.