EJA welcomes Government response to Mine Fire Inquiry

The Government will implement all the recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry – a welcome result for the community.

Today the Victorian Government announced that it will accept and implement all the recommendations of the 2015 Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.

Environmental Justice Australia welcomes this announcement and congratulates the Government on its role in both reopening the Inquiry in 2015, and now agreeing the implement the recommendations.

The Government have agreed to create a Latrobe Valley Health Zone, which includes a serious of innovative health policies to improve health outcomes for Latrobe Valley residents. Importantly, in response to the findings of the Inquiry which showed just how serious the health impacts of the coal mine fire were, and the health impacts of air pollution from the coal industry, the government agreed to install more air quality monitors.

The Government has also accepted all recommendations of the Inquiry to overhaul the regulation of mine rehabilitation in the Latrobe Valley. These recommendations include the creation of a Commissioner and a new statutory authority to ensure that rehabilitation and mine closure are informed by the necessary research and by the views of the community. They also include the overhaul of how rehabilitation bonds, which protect the state against liability if mine companies do not fulfil their rehabilitation commitments, are calculated, starting with a requirement that the mine bonds significantly increase in the short term. Implementation of these recommendations will vastly improve community and environmental outcomes in the Latrobe Valley after mining ceases.

Environmental Justice Australia represented Voices of the Valley and Environment Victoria during the Mine Fire Inquiry. Without the advocacy work of both these groups, the important questions put to the Inquiry would not have been asked. Once the Inquiry was underway, hundreds and hundreds of hours, from EJA solicitors, our clients and the barristers who very generously acted pro bono, were put into participating in the Inquiry. The Inquiry has been a challenging and rewarding experience.

We are delighted that the commitment and hard work of all involved has produced such amazing results. It is a true testament to the value of empowering the community and giving them a seat at the table in important legal processes.

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