Awareness and rehabilitation of high risk abandoned mine sites while minimising the environmental and safety risks of future abandonment.
Mining has occurred in Western Australia (WA) for more than 150 years resulting in thousands of abandoned mine features across the State, such as shafts, costeans, large pit voids and waste rock land forms.
The health, safety or environmental risks of the surveyed abandoned mines plus the potential historical, cultural, social, environmental, educational or economic value of these sites will inform decisions about risk and future investment. The department is planning to actively identify high risk abandoned mine sites so they can be made safe to humans, animals and the environment through suitable management practices and/or site rehabilitation, while protecting the residual mineral value for potential future extraction.
Records of abandoned mines
Inventory of abandoned mines 1999-2011
The Abandoned Mines Program extends the work previously undertaken by the department's Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) which commenced development of an inventory of abandoned mine site features in 1999 and published the report “Inventory of Abandoned Mine Sites Progress 1999-2011” which is available from the DMIRS eBookshop.
Search for records of abandoned mines
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) maintains a comprehensive database of mines where searches can be undertaken of known abandoned mine sites in WA by selecting the ‘Abandoned Mine Features’ menu item in the publicly available Mines and Mineral Deposits (MINEDEX) database.
Access historic mine plans
You can request access to historical mine plans for a complete history of mine activity that has occurred on a tenement through DMIRS’s Resources Safety Division.
The Abandoned Mines Program was made possible following the enactment of the Mining Rehabilitation Fund Act 2012 (MRF Act) in July 2013, which provides a source of funding to address abandoned mine sites in WA. The Mining Rehabilitation Fund (MRF) in part replaced the Unconditional Performance Bond system with an annual industry levy that provides good value to the mining industry, encourages progressive rehabilitation during mining operations and allows for high priority environmental and safety risks associated with abandoned mine sites to be addressed. The MRF levy is based on the amount and type of disturbance including land under rehabilitation on tenements that are regulated under the Mining Act 1978 (Mining Act).
The Abandoned Mines Program was formally established following the release of the WA Government’s Abandoned Mines Policy in January 2016. The program provides the policies, governance, tools and processes necessary to ensure each rehabilitation project within the program is transparent, managed efficiently and provides optimal site specific benefits to the local community, industry and State.
The objectives of the program align directly with the Abandoned Mines Policy, in that:
- abandoned mine sites are prioritised in a consistent manner based on agreed criteria
- significant risks to the community and the environment are identified and contribute towards the overall priority to manage and/or rehabilitate an abandoned mine site
- potential value within an abandoned mine site is identified and protected
- tools are in place to support the ongoing capture, analysis and management and/or rehabilitation tracking of abandoned mine site features throughout the State
- an efficient, repeatable methodology is used to plan and implement the management and/or rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites
- outcomes of managed and/or rehabilitated abandoned mine sites are consistent with the WA Government’s Mine Closure Plan objectives ie. abandoned mine sites to be managed or rehabilitated to be (physically) safe to humans and animals, (geo-technically) stable, (geo-chemically) non-polluting/non-contaminating, and capable of sustaining an agreed post-mining land use.
Abandoned mine projects
The Abandoned Mines Program currently consists of four pilot projects which will test the approach and inform continuous improvement activities across all processes. An unplanned project to address immediate concerns at the Ellendale Diamond Mine in the Kimberley was initiated in late 2015.
Webpages dedicated to the projects currently within focus provide an overview of the proposed works. Refer to the ‘Latest project updates’ section of these pages for details about community workshops, and find links to ‘Expressions of Interest’ and ‘Request for Tenders’ for civil works as they become available.
Ellendale Diamond Mine
Mining activities ceased at the Ellendale Diamond Mine in July 2015, when Kimberley Diamond Company NL entered into administration. Ellendale represents an opportunity for future extraction of the internationally acclaimed, high quality fancy yellow diamond.
Black Diamond Pit Lake
The Black Diamond Pit Lake was mined between the late 1940s and early 1950s by Amalgamated Collieries Pty Ltd, the community have raised a number of serious safety concerns regarding the site which has become a popular unmanaged recreation area.
Pro-Force Plant Site
The Pro-Force Plant Site is a former gold processing mine previously operated by Pro-Force Mining Contractors Pty Ltd from 1996 to 2004. The site has been an ongoing public safety concern for the local community.
Bulong Nickel Tailings Storage Facility
Consultation will commence for the Bulong site in 2017.
Mining operations commenced on the former mining lease in the 1990s with the construction of a Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and evaporation ponds. The operating company went into receivership and effectively abandoned the site in 2005.
Concerns have been raised regarding a range of issues associated with pollution of the surrounding environment by seepage and dust from the TSF.
Consultation will commence for the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) at Elverdton in 2017. The site is not currently under a valid tenement and is potentially impacting the surrounding environment.
Mining operations commenced in the area in 1901 and continued periodically until 1992 when the operating company forfeited the mining lease, leaving behind a quantity of uncontained tailings on site.
The uncontained tailings have been eroding downstream into the Steere River since the 1990s and have long concerned the local community.
After a site is confirmed as abandoned and entered into the abandoned mines database, it is assessed along with all other sites to determine its risk to humans and the environment. High priority sites continue through a series of progressively more detailed activities before final approval for a management or rehabilitation project is able to proceed. Once approval is granted, stakeholders are identified to ensure any expectations or concerns of the general public and local government are met.
Interactive community workshops may be held to seek input into rehabilitation plans, publications and regular updates are also made available to the public.
Ongoing monitoring of the site following completion of the rehabilitation or management works ensures the solutions provided continue to deliver safety and environmental benefits.
The Mining Rehabilitation Advisory Panel (MRAP) which comprises of individuals with extensive experience within industry and environmental fields, provide expert and independent advice on project development and expenditure.
What are my responsibilities?
Conditions are placed on tenement/s to ensure safety and environmental risks are minimised. Tenement holders should check their tenement via Mineral Titles Online for a full list of applicable conditions. A breach of conditions may result in penalties.
No break in tenure
Under the Mining Act 1978, where there has been no break in tenure, holders of mining tenements are responsible for any obligation imposed on that tenement including the rehabilitation of disturbed land related to mining activities, even if the land was not disturbed through the actions of the current tenement holder.
Break in tenure
Where there has been a break in tenure between mining being conducted, land owners are encouraged to contact the relevant DMIRS Environmental Officer for advice on rehabilitation responsibilities. See the Environment Division Inspectorate Allocations Map for contact details.
Operations not administered under the Mining Act
For existing operations that are not administered under the Mining Act and mine closure is not regulated under the Environment Protection Act 1986, operators are expected to liaise with the relevant regulators about requirements for mine closure planning, and are encouraged to have in place mine closure planning and implementation consistent with the department's Guidelines for Preparing Mine Closure Plans (May 2015).
Abandoned mines policy
It is important that a robust framework is in place to support decisions regarding the prioritisation, management and/or rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites. Stakeholders were invited to comment on the “Abandoned Mines Policy” which describes this framework.
The policy ensures a consistent approach for the:
- collection of abandoned mine site information
- prioritisation of sites to be formally gazetted as an abandoned mine
- management and/or rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites.
The consultation period for the policy attracted feedback from a broad cross-section of interested parties. Overall the policy was well received and supported. The department acknowledges the individuals, organisations and agencies who provided feedback.
A key principle of the Abandoned Mines Policy is the building of partnerships with other government bodies, community groups and businesses to achieve a successful outcome in regard to the rehabilitation or management of an abandoned mine site.
To assist with this, DMIRS has created a Partnership Guideline to enable the implementation of this key aspect of the policy.
The guideline will assist in ensuring a consistent and transparent approach for the identification, development, implementation, administration and evaluation of partnerships associated with the Abandoned Mines Program.
The consultation period for the guideline attracted feedback from a broad cross-section of stakeholder’s parties. Overall the guideline was well received and supported. DMIRS appreciates the contribution of all individuals and organisations which provided feedback.
Report an abandoned mine
Mining and mineral exploration has occurred in Western Australia for more than 150 years resulting in many historic workings being abandoned. Many of these features remain undocumented.
The Department Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety encourages industry and the community to report abandoned mine features. Information provided will assist the Department to identify risks and prioritise programs in line with the Abandoned Mine Policy (2016).