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Sluggish rehabilitation rate at Upper Hunter coal mines threatens jobs and environment

New Lock the Gate Alliance analysis of Upper Hunter Valley coal mines has revealed rehabilitation is not keeping up with land disturbance, meaning missed job opportunities, increased air pollution, and heightened risk from unexpected mine closures. 

The analysis is based on data from recent Annual Reviews of the four coal mines closest to Muswellbrook - Bengalla, Mount Pleasant, Muswellbrook mine and Mount Arthur.

Disturbingly, mines slated for closure in the near future - Muswellbrook and Mount Arthur - have a mammoth clean up task in front of them, having only rehabilitated 19.8% and 22.1% of the land they have disturbed respectively.

There is also evidence of slow and ineffective rehabilitation at the other two mines reviewed - Mount Pleasant (5.5% rehabilitated) and Bengalla (20.5%) - with an Independent Environmental Audit of the latter describing “areas which are suitable to undergo temporary rehabilitation that have been left disturbed for years.”

The most recent Independent Environmental Audits (see background) for the four Muswellbrook mines describe rehabilitation efforts that are compromised due to inadequate human resources and systems. 

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the data exposed the NSW Government’s failure to ensure mining companies were restoring the land ahead of mine closure and meant the region was missing out on much-needed jobs.

“With so much uncertainty about the future of the coal market, keeping Hunter Valley mines up to date with mine rehabilitation is crucially important,” she said.

“We do not want to see a scenario where mines suddenly close and there is not enough money around to employ people to restore and manage the landscape.

“Slow and non-existent mine rehabilitation is also a missed job opportunity. If the pace and standard of mine rehabilitation is raised, then there will be more jobs now and into the future in making the Hunter beautiful again. 

“The pace of rehabilitation is woefully inadequate, which means people in the Hunter are missing out on jobs and copping air pollution from exposed land that should be rehabilitated. 

“What happens when these companies decide coal is no longer profitable and mothball their mines? There doesn’t seem to be a clear region-wide plan to employ people to manage the land after mining.

“The Mount Arthur mine is coming very close to its closure date. It employs six times the number of people as Liddell power station and has thousands of hectares of disturbed land needing rehabilitation.

“The NSW Berejiklian Government must get tough on these companies who are shirking their rehabilitation responsibilities and threatening the taxpayer with a hefty cleanup bill.”



The NSW Resources Regulator is currently finalising rehabilitation reforms intended to “set clear, achievable and enforceable requirements for rehabilitation.”

Mount Arthur Independent Environmental Audit 2020 available here.

Muswellbrook coal mine Independent Environmental Audit 2019 available here.

Bengalla Independent Environmental Audit 2019 available here.

Mount Pleasant Independent Environmental Audit 2020 available here.


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