Today the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry released its report on rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley coal mine.
Environmental Justice Australia has represented the local community ever since the devastating fire of February 2014 left Victoria’s Latrobe Valley blanketed in toxic smoke, causing serious health effects for residents.
The Inquiry was asked to investigate options for rehabilitation of the mine sites after mining finishes. It also considered whether these options would adequately address the risks to the local community and environment.
The Inquiry found that the regulation of the rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley mines is not up to scratch. Current rehabilitation plans for the mines do not set out how critical issues such as mine stability, water quality and fire risk are to be managed, when mines close and the sites are rehabilitated.
These issues, if not managed properly, could have significant and detrimental impacts on the environment and communities in the Latrobe Valley.
In response to the Department’s failure to regulate properly, the Inquiry recommended an independent statutory authority be created, to manage the rehabilitation process.
The Inquiry also recommended that the community have a greater say in what happens in mine rehabilitation. We strongly support this recommendation. The future of the community will be greatly affected by what happens to these mines after they close. Therefore, they need to be involved in discussions about what happens on the land post-mining.
They also made a series of recommendations to increase the amount of the bonds and to require the mines do more to progressively rehabilitate the site. For example, they recommended that the bonds be increased by more than double their current amounts immediately, whilst a longer term policy is developed. These recommendations are needed to protect Victorian taxpayers from being left to pick up the tab if the mining companies walk away without finishing the job of rehabilitating their mine sites.
The Latrobe Valley community have suffered enough. The government needs to act to implement the recommendations in the report, ensuring the companies that profited from the mines’ operation pay their fair share of the clean up bill.
The Victorian government needs to ensure that the community does not bear the brunt of further mine management failures. We do not want to see another devastating mine fire.
Environmental Justice Australia calls on the Victorian government to accept the recommendations of the Inquiry.