What is involved in rehabilitation planning?
Organisations carrying out mining activities in Queensland (QLD) are legally obligated to rehabilitate the land.
A progressive rehabilitation and closure plan (PRC plan) is a critical element of the QLD Government’s Mined Land Rehabilitation Policy. When submitting a site-specific application for an Environmental Authority (EA) for a new mining activity relating to a mining lease, applicants are required to develop and submit a proposed PRC plan as part of their application.
What is involved in rehabilitation planning for the PRC plan?
The purpose of the rehabilitation planning part of the PRC plan is to support and justify the development of the proposed PRCP schedule. The rehabilitation planning of the PRC plan must include the information required under section 126C of the EP Act (as described below) and must detail how progressive rehabilitation and closure will be carried out over the entire site and on a rehabilitation and improvement area basis. All applicants are encouraged to arrange a pre-lodgement meeting with the administering authority to help understand the extent of information required.
Information required includes:
- General information about the site and operation
- Information about community consultation
- Analysis and justification of PMLUs and NUMAs
- Justification of timeframes for land being available for rehabilitation (section 126D of the EP Act) and available for improvement (Schedule 6 Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019)
- Details of the rehabilitation methodologies and techniques that will be used to develop rehabilitation milestones and management milestones and supporting documentation
In addition to the legislative requirements, the following information about the site is considered necessary by the administering authority (as per section 126C of the EP Act):
- Site topography (locally and regionally)
- Climate (general and specific – rain, evaporation, temperatures and long term projections)
- Geological setting
- Site hydrology and fluvial networks
- Groundwater levels and properties
- Soil types, properties, and productivity
- Land stability (pre-existing land degradation/erosion)
- Vegetation communities and ecological data
- Fauna presence and populations
- Pre-mining land use
- Identification of underlying landholders
Design for closure
One of the main purposes of the PRC plan is for applicants to plan for how and where environmentally relevant activities will be carried out on land in a way that maximises the progressive rehabilitation of the land to a stable condition. The rehabilitation planning part of the PRC must explain how progressive rehabilitation and closure has been considered in the design of the mine site. All aspects of the mine site should be designed for closure including mine landform locations, construction and operation of the mine.
The plan must include descriptions of how the following aspects have been designed for closure:
- Size, shape and design of mine features/infrastructure
- Mining methods (underground vs extraction via an open cut pit)
- Location of mine features/infrastructure, having regard to the following considerations:
- Protection of environmental values of the site and receiving environment, including matters of National Environmental Significance, matters of State Environmental Significance and matters of Local Environmental Significance
- Surrounding land uses and proximity to sensitive receptors
- Proximity to the open-pit exit or exits
- The gradient of the footprint area, both for the direction of drainage from the landform and for the dumping costs
- Local and regional topography
- Surface and ground water features
- Geotechnical conditions (soil/rock characteristics) and suitability for the structure type
- Competing water and land uses
- Visual impact
Progressive rehabilitation must be maximised by commencing and completing rehabilitation as soon as practicable after land becomes available. The administering authority has the expectation that all disturbed land, which is available for rehabilitation or improvement, should be progressively rehabilitated throughout the operation of the mine.
The rehabilitation planning part must include:
- Identification of all relevant activities on the mine site
- The predicted duration of each of the relevant activities proposed for the mine site The size/extent of the relevant activities
- Whether the different relevant activities can be progressively rehabilitated
The following spatial information must be submitted as part of the PRC plan:
- The location and maximum extent of disturbance footprint for the mine site
- The PMLUs and NUMAs for the area within the resource tenures
- Any sensitive receptors
In addition to the list above, the plan must include spatial information outlining the rehabilitation and improvement areas that correspond to the proposed PRCP schedule, and must show the locations and
improvement areas for a 10-year period (minimum).
Post mining-use (PMLUs)
The PRC plan must identify to the administering and the community, what the final use of all land within the relevant tenures will be and how rehabilitation outcomes will be achieved progressively throughout the life of the mine. The Mined Land Rehabilitation Policy sets out the government’s expectations that mine operators will propose suitable land uses following consideration of the surrounding landscape, community views and the objectives of any local and regional planning strategies. A PMLU is defined under section 112 of the EP Act as the purpose for which the land will be used after all relevant activities for the PRC plan carried out on the land have ended.
Several examples of PMLUs are:
- Native ecosystem
- Habitat and ecosystem services
- Land fill
- Water storage
Non-use management areas
A non-use management area (NUMA) is defined as an area of land that cannot be rehabilitated to a stable condition after all relevant activities for the PRC plan carried out on the land have ended.
A NUMA can only be nominated after PMLU options have been assessed in accordance with section 3.2 of the guideline. The applicant must demonstrate that the land cannot be rehabilitated to a stable condition due to either of the following reasons:
- Carrying out rehabilitation of the land would cause greater risk of environmental harm than not carrying out the rehabilitation; OR
- Both of the below:
- The risk of environmental harm as a result of not carrying out rehabilitation of the land is confined to the area of the relevant resource tenure
- The applicant considers, having regard to each public interest consideration, that it is in the public interest for the land not to be rehabilitated to a stable condition
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