BY OLIVIA DILLON
The state government is being urged to force mining companies to increase the rate of land rehabilitation for mine sites in the Hunter Valley.
The Lock the Gate Alliance recently analysed the annual reviews of mines at Bengalla, Mt Pleasant, Muswellbrook and Mt Arthur and found the overall area of disturbance to be more than two times greater than the area of land under rehabilitation.
The average area of active rehabilitation as a percentage of the total footprint was 27.5 percent.
Recent environmental audits for the four mines describe poor results from drone seeding, erosion and weed infestation and attribute compromised rehabilitation efforts to a lack of dedicated personnel.
While Mt Arthur and Mt Pleasant mines did not comment on the analysis, a spokesperson for Indemitsu Australia resources, which owns Muswellbrook coal, said that the company regularly reviews its rehabilitation plan.
“We are fully committed to achieving our approved rehabilitation plan and can confirm that the Muswellbrook operation is currently in compliance with its regulatory obligations,” he said.
New Hope, who owns the Bengalla mine, also said they work closely with regulators to ensure they are meeting their rehabilitation requirements.
NSW coordinator for the Lock the Gate Alliance, Georgina Woods, fears a lack of action could impact tax-payers and those employed in land restoration in the region.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in the market for coal and if these mines close suddenly, that’s going to leave a really big bill to finish the rehabilitation. That bill should land on the mining companies but if they walk away from their obligations, it will be tax-payers that will need to foot that bill,” she said.
“If the state government raises the bar of ambition for progressive rehabilitation and makes the companies do a better job, and a faster job, and a more thorough job, that will mean more employment for people particularly as mine sites close. If we aim to restore the valley’s landscape, we can create many more jobs in rehabilitation.”