Since Victoria’s gold rush in the 1850s, the state’s mining and quarry industries have boosted the state's economy. They help deliver electricity, underpin building and construction, create jobs, and attract investments for the state.
Site rehabilitation is a key part of minimising risks to the public, the environment, property or infrastructure. Rehabilitation aims to make mine and quarry sites safe, stable and sustainable. Mine and quarry operators are responsible for rehabilitation works, with the anticipated cost secured by a bond. However, if the operator defaults on their rehabilitation responsibilities, the cost to restore the land may fall on the state.
The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) regulates mining rehabilitation through its Earth Resources Regulation (ERR) unit. This audit examines whether its work minimises the state’s exposure to rehabilitation liabilities. It also examines how DJPR and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) identify and manage rehabilitation liabilities from abandoned and legacy sites.
The DJPR is not effectively regulating operators’ compliance with their rehabilitation responsibilities. This exposes the state to significant financial risk because some sites have been poorly rehabilitated or not treated at all.
Systemic regulatory failures encompass:
- using outdated cost estimates
- not periodically reviewing bonds for their sufficiency—including a four-year bond review ‘moratorium’ for which there is no documentary evidence that it was duly authorised
- failure to assure that site rehabilitation had actually occurred before returning bonds
- approving inadequately specified rehabilitation plans
- lack of enforcement activities.