Currently there are some 50,000 abandoned mines across the country. The companies have simply walked away and left the sites un-rehabilitated. Some of the mines that have been abandoned are huge and the cost of repairing the land and water resources will run into billions of dollars.
Currently the NSW and Queensland Governments are approving the most enormous coal mines Australia has ever seen. The incredible scale of those mega-mines requires tougher rehabilitation requirements to ensure the Australian public isn’t left with the damage. When mining companies are granted permission to mine, they are also supposed to repair the damage from mining. However away from public scrutiny the regulators have allowed the industry to get away with second rate mine rehabilitation which has permanently scarred our landscape.
Lock the Gate is running a campaign to stop the rot and make sure the industry is held accountable and fixes up its mess. We want current and future mines fully rehabilitated, to world’s best practice standard and we want an effective programme to deal with abandoned mines. As a starting point we are working in the “big coal” states of Queensland and NSW where the recent mining boom has made the existing problem even worse.
Compounding the problem is an increasing number of companies are declaring bankruptcy before they clean up the mess meaning State Governments and the taxpayer are now responsible for rehabilitation. Other companies are shutting down their mines, sacking working and placing these operations under permanent care and maintenance to avoid investing in rehabilitation. The larger companies such as Rio Tinto, BHPB and Anglo American, having made billions of dollars profit are now trying to sell their older mines to smaller companies who have little capacity to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to rehabilitate these mines.
Mining companies set aside funds on their balance sheet to pay for closing and rehabilitating mines. Failure to set aside adequate funds can expose the public to significant risk if the companies cannot afford to fully rehabilitate the mine. Equally shareholders can be impacted if management under estimate the cost of rehabilitation given the cost of closing mines frequently costs hundreds of millions and in some cases over a billion dollars. Investors, regulators and the public all have an interest in making sure companies have the resources set aside to complete mine rehabilitation. This report “Mine Rehabilitation and Closure Cost – A Hidden Liability” documents five case studies which suggests mining companies frequently under estimate the cost of closure. Read the Report - Mine rehabilitation and closure cost
The mining industry would have us believe they invest in progressive rehabilitation during the life of a mine in order to reduce the risk and cost of closing and rehabilitating the site. However an analysis of four large multi-national mining company sustainability and annual reports suggests otherwise. There is a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality around progressive rehabilitation rates. Read the Report - Rhetoric vs Reality - a performance snap shot