Mine rehab an election winner?

More than half of Latrobe Valley residents would swing towards a candidate advocating for accelerated rehabilitation of the region’s ageing coal mine network at the state election.

An automated ‘robo poll’ conducted by Essential Research in late October on behalf of Environment Victoria found 57 per cent of Morwell voters and 52 per cent of Narracan voters would be “more likely” to support a candidate who strongly supported “a policy to speed up rehabilitation work at coal mines”.

Sampling more than 400 residents in each electorate, the polling also found 91 per cent of Morwell voters were supportive of rehabilitation as a method to transform mines into safe and usable environments. EV safe climate campaign manager Nicholas Aberle said the polling results suggested mine rehabilitation could become a decisive factor in who wins the Morwell seat.

“The next week or two is when we are going to see the major policy announcements from major parties,” Dr Aberle said.

“Looking at how many people would consider changing their vote based on rehabilitation policy, we are quite hopeful the major parties will be releasing stronger policies on mine rehab than what we are seeing at the moment.”

Labor candidate for Morwell Jadon Mintern yesterday said his party would announce a more detailed policy position on mine rehabilitation “in the coming days”.

“I want to make sure that in the future, progressive (mine) rehabilitation is given much more attention than it has received in years gone by,” Mr Mintern said.

“I’m already in advanced discussions with our shadow ministers about how we use that approach in a more formal policy sense.”

Greens candidate for Morwell Dan Caffrey and independent candidate Tracie Lund have both flagged support for accelerated mine rehabilitation policies.

Latrobe Valley mine operators are required to ‘rehabilitate’ disused sections of mine through major excavation works involving the capping of spent coal batters with suitable earth material in accordance with State Government approved schedules.

However EV, mining unions and community groups have stepped up lobbying efforts to fast track rehabilitation since the Hazelwood mine fire, citing large scale job creation potential, increased fire safety and suppression of loose mine dust.

Member for Morwell and Energy and Mining Minister Russell Northe said a much deeper understanding of mine stability and rehabilitation complexities was needed before commitments could be made.

“Surely the first step… is to understand the complex and technical work that needs to be undertaken to ensure rehabilitation measures meet best practice standards, are safe and deliver the best outcomes for the community,” Mr Northe said.

“The suggestion of accelerated rehabilitation, whilst sounds good in theory, is simply putting the cart before the horse and neglects due diligence, particularly around water management and mine stability.

“I have previously requested the department consult with technical experts to rigorously examine the requirements for world best practice rehabilitation and bonds that reflects these high standards.”