Victoria’s approach to regulating mines and quarries is changing
Victoria is changing how mines, quarries and exploration are being regulated. The changes will deliver better environmental and community outcomes, and at the same time, cut unnecessary red tape for industry.
The new framework will be implemented in stages, with the whole framework coming into effect by 1 July 2027. The changes are delivered through the recently passed Minerals Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment Act 2023, with supporting guidelines and regulations to follow.
Currently, most operations are regulated by work plans. While work plans do identify risks of harm arising from operations, and ways to mitigate them, they are problematic because they tend to be static and not readily adaptive to environmental, technical and other changes over time.
We need a new way to regulate, so that risks are continually monitored and mitigated, to safeguard the environment and communities.
The new laws introduce a duty on operators to proactively eliminate or minimise risks of harm to community, the environment, land, property and infrastructure.
Operators will be given clearr and consistent expectations on how to comply through the issuing of standards, Codes of Compliance and other guidance material. Operators will be allocated into either higher, moderate or lower risks. Higher and moderate risk operators will be required to comply with specified standards and, where relevant and necessary, bespoke licence conditions. Lower risk operators must comply with Codes of Compliance.
This duty-based regime will replace work plans. Rehabilitation plans (currently forming part of a work plan) will remain for higher and moderate risk tier operators who must periodically review these to ensure the land is left in a safe, stable and sustainable state when mining or quarrying is completed. Lower risk operators will be required to comply with the rehabilitation obligations specified in the relevant Code of Compliance.
The new reforms will remove statutory endorsement, simplifying the approval process for industry and ensuring communities have an earlier opportunity to make submissions about new mines or quarries in their area. The planning stage will become the first stage of the new process for quarries, and most mining applications will continue to be dealt with through the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process. The reforms do not alter the EES process, which will continue to be managed by the Minister for Planning and their department under the Environment Effects Act 1978. Councils will be supported through the planning changes.
The reforms will become fully operational by 1 July 2027. Some of the amendments will come into effect sooner, including a change expected to commence in early 2024 that will re-name the Act to become the Mineral Resources and Extractive Industries Act 1990.
During the transition period from 2023 to 2027, regulations and other subordinate instruments will be developed, and will be available for public comment through a regulatory impact statement process. Supporting land use planning instruments will also be amended in accordance with the public consultation requirements of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. During this period, operational changes will also be implemented, regulatory capability developed, and guidance materials and education prepared.
A comprehensive engagement plan is being implemented to ensure that the detail of this new regime is developed and implemented to work effectively. We will engage with industry, councils, co-regulators, environmental organisations, traditional owners and the wider community.
The engagement process will involve three overlapping phases:
Stage 1: Transitional phase
This will involve reviewing compliance obligations in planning permits and mine and quarry authorities, to ensure transitional provisions are in place. During this time, we will set up stakeholder engagement mechanisms to support awareness and understanding of the changes. Early commencement of select provisions of the amending legislation will occur to change the name of the Act and to initiate the transition of existing authorities to risk tier determinations in advance of the 1 July 2027 start date, when the new statutory duty becomes operational.
Stage 2: Enabling phase
This is when stakeholder consultation will commence in earnest on the development and design of the subordinate and supporting instruments, including the codes of compliance, standards, regulations and amendments to the Victoria Planning Provisions and local council planning schemes.
Stage 3: Implementation phase
in anticipation of the start date of 1 July 2027, implementation activities will be undertaken to support the Earth Resources Regulator, industry, councils, community and other stakeholders so they understand the reforms, their roles, and what is required so that they can comply with and benefit from the changes.
You can read the amending Act on the Victorian Legislation website. The Act received Royal Assent on 29 August 2023.
For an explanation of the effect of each clause in the Act, see the Explanatory Memorandum on the Victorian Bills in Parliament. The legislation was introduced to Parliament on 20 June 2023 and passed without amendment on 17 August 2023.
Page last updated: 29 Nov 2023