A scheduled rehabilitation plan for Hazelwood’s exposed coal batters was not fully developed until a 2009 Works Plan variation was released as part of the major west field mine expansion.
Earth Resources branch executive director Kylie White, from the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation, told the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry until the Works Plan’s release, the plan was to fill the mine with water – a process which could take about 500 years.
Counsel Assisting the Inquiry Melinda Richards noted the mine extension approval would see worked-out coal batters become a “more significant proportion” of mine area, and the 2009 Works Plan was the “first time we really see any meat on the bones” in terms of actual mine wall rehabilitation.
It was an assessment Ms White agreed with.
“Prior to that it had been, fill the cavity or the hole with water and then landscape those areas just above or beyond that, yes,” Ms White said.
“It was going to take a lot of water, and I think at the time or leading into getting the (2009 Works Plan) variation approved – so there had been a number of iterations with GDF SUEZ or discussions with GDF SUEZ about a revised rehabilitation plan, was that filling the void may not be achievable.”
Ms White said a progressive rehabilitation plan now involved filling the mine to a “six-year” water level, and the remaining profile of the exposed batters would be landscaped and capped.
She said the rehabilitation would occur in four stages, with a current stage of rehabilitation set for completion in 2019, east and south eastern batters by 2028, and north and south western batters by 2032 – the planned end life of the mine.
When asked if the rehabilitation schedule could be brought forward to act as an additional fire mitigation measure, Ms White said she agreed.
“I would welcome the opportunity to consider whether the rehabilitation plan could be altered in a way that would have another, if you like, objective which would be to mitigate against fire risk,” Ms White said.