Despite an increasing focus by media, communities and activists driving an elevated regulatory focus in Australia and indeed some other mining jurisdictions, the mining industry globally has had limited successful mine lease relinquishments and transfers to support a next land use.
Critique from anti-mining lobbyists frequently uses the large estimates from historically abandoned mine sites to influence risk-averse regulatory reforms to improve environmental performance. The mine rehabilitation regulatory processes in Australia, and specifically in the State of Queensland, are thus largely in place to prevent mining operators from abandoning their obligations.
Regulatory responses to the lack of mine rehabilitation and closure performance in the last five to ten years have primarily focussed on compliance and enforcement of rehabilitation conditions in environmental approvals. Additionally, financial assurance measures have been tightened to protect against abandonment of rehabilitation obligations by the Industry, including the Chain of Responsibility legislation (Queensland Government, 2016b) in April 2016, to hold to account those who have benefitted from mining and processing/refining projects, and then avoid their environmental obligations.
Swart, P B and Erskine, P D, 2018. Are our closure planning and regulatory processes adequate to identify, quantify and appropriately transfer residual risks after successful mine rehabilitation?, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 155–158 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).