When rehabilitating mined land, we aim to:
The vast majority of the site will use geomorphic design, a best-practice landscape design process that encompasses a landscape’s natural features to move water through the rehabilitation area and produce more natural looking landforms. It generally requires less maintenance and provides greater stability once established, helping to create self-sustaining environments over the long-term.
Rehabilitation practices include (but are not limited to) sealing boreholes utilised for gas drainage and exploration purposes, and repair of surface subsidence impacts. Woodland areas that have been disturbed are rehabilitated with native vegetation species prevalent in the surrounding area.
While Whitehaven will hold onto the land for decades to come, with mining approved until 2044, areas of rehabilitation on former agricultural and pastured land will be used for light grazing in the coming years.
Progressive rehabilitation has been underway since seeding first occurred in 2007. While a traditional rehabilitation landform design has been used, in future we plan to adopt a more geomorphic rehabilitation design allowing better drainage, less maintenance and a more natural appearance.
To provide as much habitat as possible for fauna, we have established standing habitat trees on the slopes of the rehab, and will be installing nest boxes in more progressed rehabilitation areas.
We use standing “stag” trees recycled from the clearing process to provide instant habitat for local birds, bats and marsupials – a tangible benefit for native species. Some stag trees are placed on the ground to provide habitat for a variety of ground-dwelling species including reptiles, insects, marsupials and birds. We also create boulder clusters, providing habitat for local reptiles and crevices for hiding animals. These allow populations of reptiles to establish within the rehabilitation areas.
Coupled with native groundcover and the planting of native canopy seedlings, this approach ensures the open box gum woodland is constantly developing and progressing towards an established and mature ecosystem.
The rehabilitation process is intended to return the site to pastures in the flat areas (approx. 54.43 ha) and woodland (approx. 35.3 ha) on the slopes, to reflect the surrounding vegetation. While the majority will be agricultural land, the rehabilitation strategy also includes enhancing biodiversity – in particular, some areas that were not disturbed by mining are being planted with tree species used by koalas to create movement corridors between separated woodlands. Key activities until about 2025 include maintenance of the landform to ensure it is safe and stable, and to control feral animals and weeds.
Rehabilitation works are scheduled to be complete by late 2023, with the following years to include monitoring and maintenance of the area. The former mine will be returned to woodland vegetation that blends into the surrounding Vickery State Forest, as well as some pasture for grazing. Site relinquishment is expected to take at least ten to fifteen years until post rehabilitation monitoring demonstrates the site is safe and stable with established self-sustaining ecosystems that integrate with its surrounds.
In 2005 Whitehaven acquired the mining lease for the area as part of the purchase of Namoi Mining, and took on responsibility for rehabilitation of the disused site. The site is at the base of the prominent Black Jack Hill and is highly visible from nearby roads and residences, and Whitehaven worked with neighbouring landholders to ensure the area would have a final landform and land use suitable to the local context, which in this case is grazing land integrated with the surrounding farm land and Black Jack Hill. We are monitoring and maintaining the area as the grassland develops and expect to recommence grazing in 2023-24, before achieving mine closure by around 2030.
It is the responsibility of the NSW Resources Regulator to ensure that land disturbed by exploration and mining activities is returned to a safe, stable and sustainable land use. The Regulator monitors rehabilitation activity and has a range of tools to ensure rehabilitation is undertaken in a timely manner and in accordance with approved commitments.
If a mining project is approved in NSW, the required rehabilitation outcomes are incorporated into the conditions of the development consent. A rehabilitation security bond must also be provided before exploration and mining activities begin, ensuring sufficient money is held by the government should a company default on its rehabilitation obligations.
Find out more at resourcesregulator.nsw.gov.au/rehabilitation