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 the Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Sites, which was released in early 2020. The strategy outlines the 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
  • 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 Regions (DJPR) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) identify and manage rehabilitation liabilities from abandoned and legacy mine and quarry sites and
  • DJPR’s coordination with relevant agencies, including DELWP, Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner (replaced by the Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority on 30 June 2020) and the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.

Outcomes from the VAGO audit were released in August 2020. These confirmed a range of issues Earth Resources Regulation had previously identified and were addressing, including through its Regulatory Practice Strategy for the Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Sites.

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. Read our official statement in response to the VAGO report. A full copy of the report is available on the VAGO 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 complete:

  1. building staffing capability and capacity to effectively regulate site rehabilitation
  2. finalising rehabilitation risk profile guidelines to prioritise and guide all regulatory activities, including the assessment of site rehabilitation plans, liabilities and setting bonds
  3. continuing to better estimate and report the State’s contingent liability for site rehabilitation as part of the department’s annual reporting requirements
  4. updating the rehabilitation bond calculator for mines and quarries to include a comprehensive range of rehabilitation tasks and cost rates
  5. preparing a comprehensive inventory of current rehabilitation bonds for all earth resource sites
  6. finalising a program to progressively review authority holders’ rehabilitation liabilities and bonds
  7. reviewing mine and quarry rehabilitation plans by finalising guidelines for preparing rehabilitation plans and progressively reviewing rehabilitation plans
  8. 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
  9. developing a rehabilitation-specific inspection and monitoring program for inclusion in the regulator’s compliance strategy and annual compliance plan
  10. 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
  11. developing an evaluation and reporting framework for Earth Resources Regulation’s Regulatory Practice Strategy for the Rehabilitation of Earth Resources Sites
  12. preparing an information and data strategy and implementation plans, improving business intelligence tools and data systems
  13. working with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to:
    1. communicate our respective roles and responsibilities for abandoned and legacy mines, in line with the established legislative framework. The joint statement regarding the management of abandoned and legacy mines on Crown Land has been prepared by DJPR, DELWP and Parks Victoria. Joint Statement on abandoned and legacy mines (PDF - 39.1 KB)
    2. updating and maintaining the memoranda of understanding (MOU) so these are fit for purpose with co-regulators EPA and DELWP (complete).

The following actions relate to two recommendations that we accept in principle due to their complexities and the requirement of greater government consideration.

  1. The department has agreed to address a perceived organisational conflict of interest by:
    1. 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
    2. 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 actions in response to the VAGO audit
      • seeking the consent of authority holders to make their rehabilitation plans publicly available
      • reporting progress publicly.
  2. The department will work with DELWP to develop a proposal for a statewide 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: 28 Sep 2022