MINERAL RESOURCES (SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT) AMENDMENT BILL 2018
Mr PALLAS (Minister for Resources) (16:52:00) — I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Speech as follows incorporated into Hansard under standing orders:
The main purpose of the Bill is to fulfil the Government’s commitments to the Latrobe Valley community and the people of Victoria to implement the recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.
In February 2014 a fire broke out at the Hazelwood coal mine which lasted 45 days, and had significant adverse impacts on the local community. In 2016, the Inquiry established to investigate the fire recommended that a Statutory Authority be established by 2026 or earlier if one of the mines should close. The Inquiry wanted the Authority to have ‘ongoing tenure until all mines have been successfully rehabilitated, and monitoring and maintenance of the Latrobe Valley mines is no longer required.’
In June 2016 the Andrews Labor Government committed to meet these recommendations through the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry Implementation Plan. The Hazelwood mine closed on 31 March 2016.
Overview of Bill
The Bill establishes a Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority, clarifies rehabilitation, closure and post‑closure obligations and sets up a post closure fund.
The Bill enables the Minister to apply this new regime to future mines that present a significant risk to public safety, the environment and infrastructure using an existing statutory power to declare mines. The Latrobe Valley coal mines are currently the only declared mines.
Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority
The Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority will be established on 1 July 2020. The Authority will take over the Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner’s current roles in relation to rehabilitation and the Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy. The Authority’s rehabilitation role will extend to declared mines. The Authority will be engaged in monitoring, maintaining and managing registered declared mine land.
The Authority will register post‑closure declared mine land and may be the owner of registered declared mine land, where this is required to protect the public, infrastructure and the environment. The Authority will be empowered to perform or contract for any functions arising from its role as landholder of declared mine land, for example managing any ongoing risks of fire or other emergencies.
Declared mine land rehabilitation and closure obligations
Declared mines will be required to have declared mine rehabilitation plans. Declared mine rehabilitation plans will include closure criteria and a post closure plan. The Bill clarifies that rehabilitation will be satisfactory and bonds returned if closure criteria are met. This will be the point of closure. Declared mine rehabilitation plans will continue in force until closure.
Post‑closure obligations and the Post‑Closure Fund
After a mine is closed the land owner will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the land. The post closure plan will be registered against the title of the land. The Minister will have the power to enforce the post‑closure plan.
The Bill establishes a Post‑Closure Fund for each mine. The Authority will use the Post‑Closure Funds to meet the ongoing costs of managing declared mine land post‑closure. The criteria and processes for assessing liability will be set in regulations. These amendments make the liabilities and responsibilities of mine operators more explicit rather than increase them.
The declared mine land rehabilitation framework in the Bill is enabling — detail will be in regulations. The changes will start to come into force from 1 July 2020 giving time for full consultation. The time frame for rehabilitation plan changes will be set following this consultation.
The Bill contains three other amendments to the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.
The Bill enables the public to comment on the grant and refusal of licence applications. Currently only objections are allowed. This amendment increases the ability of the community to participate in decision‑making about exploration and mining.
The Bill allows land owners and mine licence holders to include agreements on non‑financial compensation in registered compensation agreements. This amendment gives people who are affected by mining on private land more scope to develop solutions that meet their needs.
The Bill extends the term of prospecting licences to seven years, from the current five years. Prospecting licences were introduced in 2010. They are used by small‑scale prospectors and miners. The area of land in a prospecting licence must not exceed five hectares. Prospecting licences cannot be renewed. At present the use of these licences is limited because it can take several years for licensees to fulfil the statutory conditions to commence work. The two‑year extension to the term of prospecting licences will ensure that they remain an effective form of licensing for small scale prospectors.
I commend the Bill to the house.
Debate adjourned on motion of Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield).
Debate adjourned until Wednesday, 22 August.