EPA cautions coal mines for burying waste tyres.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued official cautions to six open cut coal mines in the Namoi and Liverpool Plains regions following an EPA investigation into the burial of waste haul truck tyres.

The investigation was in response to allegations of illegal receipt and burial of waste tyres at one open-cut coal mine in the Namoi region in June 2020.

EPA Director Regulatory Operations Stephen Budgen said while the EPA did not find evidence that these tyres were brought onto the mine sites from other areas, the investigation identified that all six mines had buried their tyres without the necessary licence conditions.

The EPA is ensuring appropriate environmental safeguards are in place before on-site disposal is allowed to continue at mines,” Mr Budgen said.

We found instances of tyres being buried without necessary licence conditions at various times between 2014-2020.

While no environmental harm was found to have occurred, the EPA issued Official Cautions to all six of the open cut coal mines we investigated.”

Mr Budgen said an Official Caution was a regulatory tool that the EPA used to encourage compliance and help improve environmental outcomes.

The EPA is also actively engaged with the mining and tyre recycling industries to find long term strategies for the management and safe disposal of waste tyres,” Mr Budgen said.

The EPA is in discussion with other relevant agencies to address the capacity of the current recycling industry through initiatives in the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041.

Taxpayers Risk Bearing Cost of Rehabilitation.

NSW Labor has questioned the Government on whether Mining Rehabilitation Security Deposits cover the cost of mine rehabilitation.

The 2017 Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Report into Mining Rehabilitation Security Deposits identified a series of weaknesses that are yet to be rectified by the Government in how they estimate mining rehabilitation costs.

Labor said the Deputy Secretary, Mining, Exploration and Geoscience of Regional NSW, conceded that the current deposits held by the Government would not cover the total cost of filling in final voids left by mines beyond the development consent requirements.

Ms Mihailuk, shadow minister for natural resources, said mining communities across New South Wales deserve to have confidence that the NSW Government is properly assessing the cost to rehabilitate mines.

NSW taxpayers deserve assurance that they will not carry the financial burden associated with mine rehabilitation and closure.”

A further warning to the Government was also issued in May 2021 through a report published by The Australian Institute titled ‘Mind the Gaps’, which revealed that the current Mining Rehabilitation Security Deposits held by the NSW Government are inadequate to fully rehabilitate the state’s mines.

As of July 2021, the NSW Government held nearly $3.4 billion in security bonds for the rehabilitation of exploration and mining impacts in the event of a default by the mining report. However, the ‘Mind the Gaps’ report estimates that between $11 billion and $25 billion would be needed to fill in the voids.

The Government has clearly failed to heed the warnings issued by the Auditor General in 2017 and now they are failing to address the concerns raised by the Mind the Gap report in 2021. When will the Government take responsibility and admit that its environmental bonds are totally inadequate to rehabilitate mine voids once mining ceases.”

The Deputy Secretary also failed to confirm whether a Mine Rehabilitation Steering Committee had been established, despite the Government committing to setting up the committee during budget estimates in March 2021.