Site rehabilitation and VAGO response
In mid-2018, Earth Resources Regulation self-initiated a review to assess and improve how we regulate mine and quarry rehabilitation. As a direct result we developed the Regulatory Practice Strategy for Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Sites (PDF - 2.1 MB) , which was released in early 2020. The Strategy outlines steps we are taking to overhaul the regulation of site rehabilitation, including:
- developing requirements for better site rehabilitation plans,
- updating the rehabilitation bond calculator,
- progressively reviewing site rehabilitation bonds; and
- stepping up compliance on site rehabilitation.
We recognise that community confidence in the earth resources sector and its regulator depends on ensuring that site operators fulfil their site rehabilitation obligations. The commitments made at the start of a mine, quarry or other earth resource project must be delivered when it's completed.
In 2019, the Victorian Auditor’s General’s Office (VAGO) commenced an independent audit. Their Rehabilitating Mines Audit examined:
- whether Earth Resources Regulation’s work minimises the state’s exposure to rehabilitation liabilities
- how the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Precincts (DJPR) and the Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) identify and manage rehabilitation liabilities from abandoned and legacy mine and quarry sites; and
- DJPR’s co-ordination with relevant agencies, including DELWP, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner (LVMRC) and the Goulburn Broken Catchment Authority (GBCMA).
Outcomes from the VAGO audit were released in August 2020 and confirm a range of issues Earth Resources Regulation had previously identified and were addressing, including through the Regulatory Practice Strategy for Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Sites (PDF - 2.1 MB) .
Earth Resources Regulation welcomes the VAGO audit recommendations and is building these into the actions we are taking to improve site rehabilitation outcomes for the State.
Earth Resources Regulation’s official statement in response to the report.
A full copy of the report is available on the VAGO's website.
Our actions in response to VAGO
Earth Resources Regulation is committed to the following actions as a result of the VAGO audit, many of which are already underway:
- building staffing capability and capacity to effectively regulate site rehabilitation
- finalising Rehabilitation Risk Profile Guidelines to prioritise and guide all regulatory activities, including the assessment of site rehabilitation plans, liabilities and setting bonds (underway)
- continuing to better estimate and report the state’s contingent liability for site rehabilitation as part of the department’s annual reporting requirements (underway)
- updating the rehabilitation bond calculator for mines and quarries to include a comprehensive range of rehabilitation tasks and cost rates, with consultation underway with the regulator’s stakeholder reference group
- preparing a comprehensive inventory of current rehabilitation bonds for all earth resource sites
- finalising a program to progressively review authority holders’ rehabilitation liabilities and bonds
- reviewing mine and quarry rehabilitation plans by finalising guidelines for preparing rehabilitation plans and progressively reviewing rehabilitation plans (underway)
- defining ‘unacceptable risk’ with respect to rehabilitation as a trigger to require some authority holders to prepare new risk-based work plans for their operations
- developing a rehabilitation-specific inspection and monitoring program for inclusion in the regulator’s Compliance Strategy and Annual Compliance Plan
- developing an operational policy and standard operating procedures for bond reviews and returns, annual activities and expenditure and regulating inactive sites in accordance with the Rehabilitation Risk Profile Guidelines
- developing an evaluation and reporting framework for Earth Resources Regulation’s Regulatory Practice Strategy for Earth Resources Site Rehabilitation
- preparing an information and data strategy and implementation plans, improving business intelligence tools and data systems
- working with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to:
- communicate our respective roles and responsibilities for abandoned and legacy mines in line with the established legislative framework (underway)
- updating and maintaining the MOUs so these are fit for purpose with co-regulators EPA and DELWP.
The following actions relation to two recommendations that we accept in principle due to their complexities and requirement of greater government consideration.
- The department has agreed to address a perceived organisational conflict of interest by:
- reviewing and providing advice for Ministerial consideration on organisational governance options for the regulation of all earth resources activities, as per the direction signalled in the Mineral Resources Strategy 2018-2023 (PDF - 1.6 MB) .
- implementing interim governance measures to better differentiate and make transparent the department’s economic development and regulatory responsibilities for earth resources, by:
- better delineating the delegation of Ministerial and Department Head powers,
- broadening participation in the regulator’s stakeholder reference group,
- updating the Regulatory Practice Strategy for the Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Sites to include the response actions to the VAGO audit,
- seeking the consent of authority holders to make their rehabilitation plans publicly available, and
- reporting progress publicly.
- The department will work with DELWP to develop a proposal for a state-wide management framework for abandoned and legacy mines and present this proposal to government.
Mine and quarry operators are integral to achieving improvements and delivering statutory obligations for site rehabilitation.
Page last updated: 05 Aug 2020