NSW subsidence direction assured

A RULING earlier this year that subsidence from longwall mining threatens the habitat of endangered native plants and animals will have little affect on mining companies as the New South Wales Government recently determined subsidence measures in place were already adequate.
NSW subsidence direction assured NSW subsidence direction assured NSW subsidence direction assured NSW subsidence direction assured NSW subsidence direction assured


Angie Tomlinson

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) had been considering whether a threat abatement plan was the most effective and feasible way to address subsidence from longwall mining. Following meetings between the DEC and the Department of Primary Industries -- Mineral Resources (DPI) to discuss the implications of the listing, it was decided that a threat abatement plan would not be prepared because Subsidence Management Plans (SMP) and other approval processes already satisfactorily addressed subsidence impacts on the environment, including impacts on threatened species and their habitats.

A DEC spokesperson told International Longwall News that while a threat abatement plan would not go ahead, the decision would require DPI to review the measures currently in place to see if any tweaking was necessary.

“The decision will definitely not stop longwall mining and the laws are not going to change around the approval process. The industry is already aware of subsidence management issues and the Government already has in place measures to manage and regulate subsidence impacts,” the spokesperson said.

Alteration of habitat following subsidence due to longwall mining was formally listed as a key threatening process under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act in July this year. The final ruling was made following a preliminary ruling by the NSW Scientific Committee in November 2004 and a public submission period.

Under the Threatened Species Conservation Act, the DEC is required to coordinate strategies for mitigating or managing the adverse impacts of a key threatening process once it has been listed by the committee. This can range from reviewing existing policies, regulatory regimes, preparing impact assessment guidelines or improving technology to a Threat Abatement Plan.

SMP have been required, as a condition of title issued under the Mining Act 1992, since 2004, and are required whenever underground mining is likely to lead to subsidence. The SMP process is administered by DPI and plans are reviewed and approved by an interagency committee made up of representatives from DPI, DEC, the NSW Department of Planning and the NSW Department of Natural Resources, and other agencies such as SCA and the Mine Subsidence Board, as required.

The final approval of a SMP rests with the director-general of DPI. Factors such as impacts on threatened species are taken into account in this process. A review of the SMP process currently underway will make recommendations for further improvements if necessary.

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