WA rehab fund kicks off

A MINING rehabilitation fund initiated by the Western Australian government kicks into effect today, replacing the state’s environmental bonds system.
WA rehab fund kicks off WA rehab fund kicks off WA rehab fund kicks off WA rehab fund kicks off WA rehab fund kicks off


Justin Niessner

The fund has already attracted 371 tenement holders to register in advance ahead of a voluntary opt-in period scheduled to close in July next year.

Joining the fund will become mandatory after this period.

The WA Department of Mines said the start of the voluntary opt-in period would allow companies that registered early to begin calculating the rates they would be required to pay.

The department’s acting environment division executive director Marnie Leybourne said tenement holders would be required to submit data using an online system, declaring the number of hectares disturbed and the type of disturbance.

“The levy will be calculated on a per tenement basis according to the type of disturbance, as clearly defined in the regulations,” Leybourne said.

"The contributions start at about one per cent a year and the fund will build up over time. These funds will then be available to use in the event a company doesn't fulfil its rehabilitation obligations.”

Unlike the old bonds system which was held for use specifically for the tenement it was lodged for, contributions to the new fidelity fund will be able to be used on any site, and interest from the fund will be able to be used to clean up legacy sites.

“Bonds only cover about 25 per cent of a mines outstanding rehabilitation liability, which means that if a mine operator is unable to meet its environmental obligations, the state was previously exposed to paying significant proportions of the rehabilitation costs,” Leybourne said.

The government said the fund is expected to encourage progressive rehabilitation throughout the life of the mine as liabilities are calculated annually.

Registered tenement holders choosing to opt-in will be required to submit their data online which will begin a 30 day processing period within the department.

“If that process finds the tenement holder is eligible to receive their bond back, the tenement holder will then be required to pay the calculated rates to the fund and the process will then begin to return the bond,” Leybourne said.

“This really is a win-win for the sector as it frees up valuable funds at the start of projects and encourages ongoing rehabilitation.”

As part of the introduction of the fund, the department has been conducting workshops and information sessions for industry including a seminar hosted last Wednesday by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies.

AMEC has been a driving force behind the program, saying the fund will ultimately free up cash which is currently being used to support unconditional performance bonds.

“As a high proportion of existing unconditional performance bonds are cash backed, immediate access to that cash will enable companies to use those funds for operational purposes and expand existing drilling programs,” AMEC chief executive Simon Bennison said in a statement following the seminar.

“The challenge is now for other Australian jurisdictions to acknowledge the significant benefits, and introduce it themselves.

“While this is a great starting point, more work is required on the detail of the implementation of this initiative.”

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