As the mining boom ends, the mining clean-up boom is beginning. New research from The Australia Institute released today shows that there is minimal information available to the public on how the clean-up is progressing.

The report, Dark side of the boom: What we do and don’t know about mines, closures and rehabilitation in New South Wales, (attachment below) is the first in a series examining how mine site rehabilitation is being measured and managed.

NSW has approximately 100 operating mines and 123 that have ‘suspended operations’. Little is known about these mines. No information is available as to how long these mines have been closed, if are likely to operate again and how many require final rehabilitation.

The NSW Division of Resources and Energy could only name one mine that had completed rehabilitation and relinquished the site back to the state.

There is no example of a major open cut mine site being successfully rehabilitated in NSW. There are, however, hundreds of abandoned mines in the state, with the NSW Auditor General expressing concern that derelict mines ‘may represent the largest category of contamination liability for the New South Wales Government.’

“While government departments can tell us exactly how many tonnes of coal have been produced and precisely how many dollars of investment are in the pipeline, there is very little information on things as basic as number of mines operating, number of mines in ‘care and maintenance’, or number of mines abandoned,” said report lead author Rod Campbell.

“NSW is allowing the coal industry to leave at least 45 very large holes, or ‘final voids’, that will never be filled in.

“While the industry claims these voids will be rehabilitated to the highest standards, there is not a single example of this ever being done in the state.”

“With major companies like Rio Tinto leaving the NSW coal industry, rehabilitation is being left to smaller, less well-known companies. It is vital that the NSW community have access to information about the status of mine sites and their rehabilitation.”

“Information on the status of mines is hard to get. Obtaining data on NSW required 18 phone calls and emails to the NSW Division of Resources and Energy over six months. Our questions referred to the ‘Industry Coordination’ section still have not been responded to.”

“The costs of rehabilitating the mines in NSW run to billions of dollars. The public cannot afford to leave this to blindly trust in mining companies and government departments are not facilitating the transparency this issue deserves.

“Much higher standards of transparency and data provision are required in NSW and most other states,” Campbell said.

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