Inquiry snubs rehab

The Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry has been criticised for failing to address the rehabilitation of open cut mines in its 18 recommendations.

The role of mine rehabilitation as a fire prevention measure became a large focus of the inquiry, however the Board has since found there was a range of obstacles preventing mine rehabilitation from becoming the “primary strategy” in the worked out areas of the mine. 

“While rehabilitation is a routine method of covering exposed coal that could be used as a fire prevention method, there are various factors that make progressive rehabilitation a complex, costly and time-consuming exercise,” the Inquiry found. 

The Board stated rehabilitation should be considered among a range of preventative measures, including the use of clay, cement mixtures, and fly ash slurries on worked out mine batters as part of the suite of fire prevention measures available. 

“It is not appropriate for the board to advocate for any one option without the benefit of proper technical assessment of the feasibility of the measures and a thorough risk assessment.” 

Environment Victoria safe climate campaign manager Nicholas Aberle said the omission of rehabilitation advice could be a missed opportunity for the government to bring forward mine rehabilitation timelines. 

“The inquiry has taken a safe option of just asking the government and GDF SUEZ for coming up with their own plans, but that’s what got us into this position in the first place,” Dr Aberle said. 

“GDF have to perform rehabilitation anyway, so it wouldn’t cost them any extra, but that’s not required to happen for next 10 to 14 years.”

Meanwhile Voices of the Valley president Wendy Farmer called for a concrete timeline and list of goals for the remediation of the disused sections of the mine.

Ms Farmer said the $15 million rehabilitation bond also needed to be increased to ensure GDF SUEZ fulfilled its obligations to rehabilitate the mine and return the area to community use.

“It’s currently a $15 million bond, and the rehabilitation of the mine has been estimated up to a $500 million project,” she said.