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Find out how the Ulan Coal Mine is being rehabilitated

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Mine Rehabilitation & Closure / Mining & Resources

Find out how the Ulan Coal Mine is being rehabilitated

In this article:

 

Background information on the Ulan Coal Mine 

The Ulan Coal Mine is in the central west of NSW about 38 kilometres north east of Mudgee. The mine is primarily surrounded by rural landholdings, native bushland and primary industries including agriculture, state conservation areas, mining (including other coal mining operations) and extractive industries.

  • The complex includes both open cut and underground mining operations and operates pursuant to development consent PA08_0184 granted by the (then) Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
  • The mine has approval to operate until 2033.
  • Coal deposits at Ulan were first worked in the 1920s with the first underground mine producing coal in 1942 and the second underground mine producing coal in 1957.
  • Mining operations expanded substantially in the 1980s, with more open cut operations and a coal preparation plant and rail loading facilities.
  • The open cut operations were placed on care and maintenance in 2016, however, the underground operations continue to operate at the time of writing.
  • The domain where rehabilitation has been completed comprises 50.4 hectares within the former open cut mining area known as East Pit Area 2 (EPA2). Rehabilitation has been undertaken progressively at EPA2 since the early 1980s.

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Figure 1 Aerial photo of East Pit Area 2 in 1989 showing rehabilitation commencement in the southern area REH – Ulan Coal Mine

Required rehabilitation outcomes

The required rehabilitation outcomes for the EPA2 area are detailed in the Ulan Coal Mining Operations Plan (MOP) approved by the Regulator. The MOP requires the title holder to achieve the approved rehabilitation objectives, rehabilitation completion criteria and final landform.

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This includes the following key obligations:

  • Establish a safe, stable, self-sustaining and non-polluting landform that is free-draining.
  • Establish and final land use that consists of grassland, shrubs and native trees similar to the pre-mining environment.

The final rehabilitation outcomes were developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders and government agencies, including the Regulator. The community was also involved in the consultation process.

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Figure 2 Approved final land use domains – Ulan Coal Mine

 

Rehabilitation progress

Rehabilitation has been undertaken progressively at EPA2 since the early 1980s in accordance with the obligations set out in the approved MOP. Figures 3 to 5 show the progress of rehabilitation between 1992 and 2019.

 

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Figure 3 Status of rehabilitation works in 1992 – Ulan Coal Mine
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Figure 4 Status of rehabilitation works in 1997 – Ulan Coal Mine
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Figure 5 Rehabilitation status in 2019 – Ulan Coal Mine

The rehabilitation was the subject of ongoing monitoring and maintenance in accordance with the requirements of the approved MOP. The scope of the monitoring program, which was undertaken by a specialist ecological consultancy firm, was designed to evaluate performance against the rehabilitation objectives and completion criteria. The range of parameters evaluated as part of the monitoring program included vegetation structure, floristic composition, fauna habitat, native fauna presence, weed and pest animal presence, soil structure and function, and landform stability.

To support the application for rehabilitation sign-off of this area, the mining company submitted a report prepared by the ecological consultancy firm, which compiled years of monitoring data collected for the area.

Key observations to support the sign-off for the area included:

  • The final landform is safe, stable, non-polluting and free draining. Slopes are compatible with the proposed final land use.
  • There are no gully or erosion features, or rills greater than 20 millimetres deep that are active or pose a risk to the final land use. The soils are stable, non-polluting and the data presented in sampling reports shows evidence of key structural formation and function.
  • There is no spontaneous combustion present.
  • The final landform design has surface contours blended to the surrounding landscape with no slumping.
  • The final landform consists of dense vegetation covering a consistent slope that falls to the south east.
  • Surrounding landscape features and vegetation communities are present within the rehabilitated areas and evidenced in the form of faunal composition, habitat features such as shelter, foraging areas, breeding habitat and general biodiversity of the site.
  • The species composition represent the seed mix from the 1980s and 1990s and monitoring data also shows that seed movement from surrounding native woodland is regenerating naturally within the rehabilitated area. The site comprises a mix of Acacia woodland (10.3 hectares), Mixed-Eucalypt woodland/open forest (9.7 hectares), Spotted Gum woodland/open forest (21.2 hectares) and grassland/shrubland (9.2 hectares).
  • The 0.5 hectares dam is fed from a small local catchment that is dependent on rainfall events, consequently being dry during drought conditions. The dam augments habitat when surface runoff is sufficient to replenish it.
  • The area exhibits all the key attributes of an area that is functioning as a self-sustaining native ecosystem which has reached a state of high resilience and requires minimal maintenance.
  • The area satisfies all the required ecological, soil and landform rehabilitation completion criteria with no significant weed infestations.

With regard to native fauna, the monitoring program recorded five amphibians, 100 birds, 23 mammals and six reptiles species within EPA2. Twelve of these species are listed as threatened under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, four are also listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

 

How to drive progressive rehabilitation and closure

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=340Weed-sww[/embedyt]

 

Information obtained from NSW Resources Regulator.


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