Inactive Earth Resources Sites Policy
Management of inactive sites for the optimal development of resources for all Victorians
This operational policy sets out the framework for monitoring and regulating inactive resources sites to ensure authority holders comply with care and maintenance and rehabilitation obligations under the various Acts administered by Earth Resources Regulation.
For the purposes of this policy, sites are considered inactive where there is a current tenement/licence and active resource extraction/production has ceased and rehabilitation is required but has not yet commenced, or where the licence has ceased with an authority holder still on record and requires rehabilitation.
Earth Resources Regulation will determine whether a resource site is inactive based on the relevant circumstances such as the resource type, period of suspended production, reason for inactivity, the requirement for rehabilitation and compliance status. Where operations have been suspended for the periods of time as set out in the relevant Acts (which provides the basis for cancellation of a licence), these sites will be considered as being inactive. That is, two years for a mining licence, petroleum production licence, or greenhouse gas injection and monitoring licence and five years for a geothermal authority. Extractive industry work authorities will be considered inactive after 10 years.
The overall objectives of this operational policy are to:
- enable responsible and competent operators to generate investment and job opportunities, particularly in regional areas, through the grant of exclusive access to the State’s earth resources
- provide assurance for land holders, government and the wider community that operators will fulfil their regulatory obligations and social responsibilities to protect people, land, infrastructure and the environment, throughout the operational life cycle
- provide upfront guidance to all authority holders on how inactive earth resource sites should be managed for the optimal development of resources for the benefit of Victorians
- reduce the risk of authority holders of inactive earth resources sites defaulting on their care and maintenance and rehabilitation obligations.
Determining site activity
Inactive resource sites are generally monitored and detected through annual activity and expenditure reports and licence status.
Authority holders are encouraged to report inactivity to Earth Resources Regulation including the appropriate contact for the site and their contact details. This allows Earth Resources Regulation to engage with authority holders early regarding their care and maintenance and progressive rehabilitation obligations.
Effective site rehabilitation underpins confidence in both the resources industry and the regulator – the commitments made upon approval of a resources project must be fulfilled when it is finished.
Authority holders are responsible for rehabilitating their sites. The purpose of rehabilitation is to achieve safe, stable and sustainable final landforms to protect people, land, infrastructure and the environment.
Authority holders should proactively plan and conduct site rehabilitation throughout the full life cycle of their resource project. Where this has not occurred, it is a prompt to Earth Resources Regulation to review a site’s operations as part of ongoing compliance monitoring to ensure authority holders fulfill their obligations.
Earth Resources Regulation uses a risk-based approach for monitoring and enforcing regulatory obligations for inactive resource sites.
The risk-based approach considers the likelihood of an authority holder defaulting on their care and maintenance and rehabilitation obligations and the likely consequence of the default on people, land, environment and infrastructure.
Inactive resource sites undergo risk assessment and are monitored to ensure compliance with care and maintenance and rehabilitation and suspended production obligations until the rehabilitation bond is returned and site closure occurs.
Sites may be required to undergo a rehabilitation bond review to ensure the financial security remains at an appropriate level.
Regulatory activities are prioritised for inactive sites that present the greatest rehabilitation risk in accordance with Earth Resources Regulation’s Interim Compliance Strategy 2021–2022 and rehabilitation bond policies and procedures.
Non-compliance will trigger a regulatory response in line with Earth Resources Regulation’s approach to compliance and enforcement, which may include issuing notices for the remedy of identified risks or breaches.
Managing inactive sites
Where active resource extraction/production has ceased and rehabilitation is required but not yet commenced, the authority holder must continue to comply with its responsibilities as outlined in the licence guidelines and rehabilitation bond policies and procedures and include:
- continued compliance with an approved work or operation plan and with the conditions attached to the authority
- ongoing compliance with environmental, safety, land rehabilitation, administrative, and loss of amenity obligations
- reviewing care and maintenance and progressive rehabilitation obligations to assess whether current plans are sufficient.
Where site inactivity has been identified, Earth Resources Regulation may request further information or commence a process to ensure compliance with regulatory obligations, Earth Resources will communicate with authority holders in writing and authority holders will be given an opportunity to explain any relevant matter.
Page last updated: 15 Aug 2023