Consideration of the environment is vital for exploration and mining companies to maintain community confidence and a social licence to operate.
There are strict provisions in the principal mining act in Victoria as well as legislation and a large number of supporting regulations under the planning and environment portfolios.
Effective site rehabilitation following mining and quarrying operations protects the environment. Mineral explorers and miners have to lodge a rehabilitation bond and gain approval for a work plan that covers possible environmental risks.
The bond is security of payment for any rehabilitation work needed after minerals exploration or a mining operation. More approvals may be needed under the Environment Protection Act 2017 and the Water Act 1989.
Exploration licence holders also need to follow the department's Code of Practice for Mineral Exploration. The code provides practical guidance on regulatory requirements and environmental standards for exploration in Victoria.
Mining licensees (licence holders) need a planning permit. They also need to prepare an Environment Effects Statement (EES) which includes public and stakeholder consultation.
The mining licensee (licence holder) needs to identify and assess possible environmental impacts then suggest actions to reduce the impact.
We expect licensees (licence holders) to address these potential environmental issues in their work plan:
- dust and noise emissions control
- drainage and discharge control (including stormwater management)
- erosion control
- noxious weeds and pests control
- removal or restoration of native vegetation
- progressive and final rehabilitation
- groundwater protection.
Mineral development projects in Victoria are subject to the government’s Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation which strives for net gain in native vegetation via protection, enhancement and revegetation of the state’s native plants.
Water is subject to set controls allowing a variety of uses.
Mining operators need allocations through licences under the work authority, the Water Act 1989.
Water discharges (e.g. water injected back into groundwater or discharged into streams) is subject to the Environment Protection Act 1970.
Mining operations may include the construction of facilities including water races (aqueducts), tailings dumps, tailings dams, drains, dams, reservoirs, pipelines and bores. These will be specified in the work plan.
Groundwater and surface water is used in a variety of ways in exploration and mining operations including:
- for dust control
- in drilling
- to maintain vegetation areas
- for ore processing
- to reduce erosion
- to make mining safe.
Groundwater management issues are examined by us in partnership with the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP). Conditions for groundwater protection may be imposed on an exploration or mining licence.
If the land covered by a licence is restricted Crown land (regional parks and most reserves), the consent of the Crown land Minister is needed.
For work on other Crown land, only an approved work plan is needed. DELWP is usually consulted before the department approves a work plan that includes Crown land.
If the land is managed by the Melbourne Water Corporation, or an authority under the Water Act 1989, consent must be sought from the board or that authority.
If the proposed licence covers public highways, roads and streets, then the manager of those roadways needs 21 days' notice of the proposed work.
If you suspect that a licensee (licence holder) is not managing risk to people, property, or the environment, you can contact an inspector from the department and enquire about the situation. If you have a complaint about an operation,it can also be registered with the department.
An inspector from the department will look into complaints which could lead to:
- directions about methods to remove or reduce the risk
- a prohibition notice barring the licensee (licence holder) from carrying out or continuing any activity
- related to minerals exploration or mining operations
- other action under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA).
Continual breaches may result in the department proposing cancellation of the licence. Other enforcement actions may include prosecution and infringement notices.
An inspector from the department will advise you of the outcomes of an investigation.
Page last updated: 27 Jul 2022