Western Australia Releases New Standards for Mine Rehabilitation

The Western Australian government has released new standards to help provide better rehabilitation of mine sites in the region. These standards outline several environmental criteria that mine operators can follow to help determine if they’ve successfully rehabilitated their site after mining. The report highlights several areas of improvement to the sector, suggesting that investments in financial and staff resources for the rehabilitation and closure of the mine sites should be emphasised right from the beginning.

The new guidelines encourage mining companies to invest in advancing their science-based knowledge on how to improve rehabilitation standards in Western Australia. Industry representatives like Iluka Resources and Roy Hill, Alcoa, and the country’s leading universities are heavily involved in this collaboration, a first for the government and the aforementioned industries in collaborating on mine closure criteria.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston made the announcement last August 20 and stated: “The new Western Australian guidance for mine closure is a great example of government and industry working together to deliver better rehabilitation outcomes for our State. It provides industry with greater clarity and consistency in the development of mine closure plans across different locations and commodities. Effective mine closure is critical to ensure the long-term environmental sustainability of the industry.”

Developing a clear and concise completion criteria for mine closure is a crucial step towards ensuring a successful transition of the mined sites for future use. In the mining industry, a completion criteria is defined as a set of agreed standards that measure the success of rehabilitation, allowing the operator to deem when its liability for an area will halt. Once they hit those standards, they can show to the mining company, regulators, and stakeholders that the liabilities and financial assurances can be eliminated.

Because of this, it’s imperative that a completion criteria must be carefully planned to achieve end-state goals. Mining is one of the biggest industries in Australia, but often times these profits come at the cost of surrounding environments. Topsoils are removed, earths are excavated, and forests are cleared to make way for mining operations. For this reason, mining rehabilitation projects have become more common and ambitious in their scopes. The scale of mining projects require extensive rehabilitation schemes that incorporate both economic initiatives and scientific advancements to reduce the damage as much as possible.

The new guidance is referred to as “A framework for developing mine-site completion criteria in Western Australia” and was developed by the Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute. The criteria focuses on all stages of mining like environmental assessment, operations, construction, decommissioning, monitoring, and maintenance of the site post-closure. While these new standards are aimed towards the resource sector, other industries can utilise the guidance set by the WA government when doing ecological restoration.

While Western Australia has made considerable progress in mine closure and rehabilitation, there is still a need to build capacity and greater understanding of how to effectively measure rehabilitation success. Setting practical outcomes and measurable completion criteria will go a long way towards helping mine operators measure their mine rehabilitation efforts more accurately.

Should you require any further understanding on the mining situation in Western Australia, get in touch with leading mining equipment supplier Oreflow for more information.