Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Department of Mines and Petroleum's Environment eNewsletter

Phil Gorey (Executive Director, Environment)

A key role of the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) is to promote best environmental management practices by delivering environmental regulatory and policy services, in a manner that maximises the responsible development of the State's mineral and petroleum resources.

This eNewsletter provides stakeholders with DMP's latest environmental news, updates and events. If you would not like to receive future editions of DMP's Environment e-Newsletter you can unsubscribe at www.dmp.wa.gov.au/subscriptions

Reforming Environmental Regulation

On 8 May 2012, DMP announced a major initiative to improving its environmental regulatory system. For the first time, the department will undertake a complete review of its environmental regulatory practices to ensure that the department is both efficient and effective in undertaking its regulatory role for the minerals and energy sector. The review will bring under the one comprehensive program all of the various reform and improvement initiatives already being delivered for environmental regulation and will be called the Reforming Environmental Regulation program.

The objective of the RER program is to implement the principles of best practice regulation for the resources sector to ensure environmental management of the industry consistently achieves the high standard expected by the community.

The review will be delivered by a dedicated implementation team to be established within the department. Importantly, the review will be supported by a Ministerial Advisory Panel (MAP) which will have representation from relevant stakeholder and regulatory organisations. The MAP is expected to have its first meeting in June 2012, and it is planned that the RER Program will incorporate an intensive consultation and review process over the next 6-8 months, culminating in an implementation plan that will be delivered by the department.

A special focus of the RER program will be will be working collaboratively with other regulators to improve the efficiency of regulatory functions, remove overlap and improve efficiency.

For more information on the RER initiative, Click here. Progress with the RER program will be a regular feature in this eNews.

Contact: Simon Skevington 9222 3632

Mining Securities update

DMP, in close consultation with key industry associations, has completed a comprehensive review into the State's environmental bonds system.

Arising from this review is the proposal that the requirement for environmental bonds be largely replaced by a fund arrangement to which all Mining Act sites would contribute.

The fund will be known as the Mining Rehabilitation Fund, with DMP having management responsibility. It is proposed that annual fund contributions, set initially at one per cent of each site's total rehabilitation and closure liability, will replace the bond requirement for all sites, except those classified as high risk or those that are non-compliant with environmental conditions. As with the current environmental bonds system, most exploration and prospecting activities will be exempt.

An advantage of the proposed Mining Rehabilitation Fund is that it is predicted to be lower cost for industry compared to bonds. It is also proposed that interest earned on the fund will be available to rehabilitate or remediate high priority existing abandoned mines, for which there is currently no dedicated funding source (either from government or industry).

Contributing to the fund will not mean that companies will no longer be liable for their environmental liabilities – the fund will only finance closure where all reasonable compliance options have been explored and another operator cannot be found to take over the liability.

The proposal is now being considered by the State government and will require the introduction of new legislation to establish the fund under a separate Act of Parliament. During the development of the legislation a system of stronger environmental compliance regulation and detailed transitional arrangements will be developed in consultation with industry and other key stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the new system.

Contact: Jenny Oosterhof 9222 0563.

Independent Uranium Review findings

On 14 May 2012, DMP released four documents relating to the independent review of the Western Australian regulatory framework for uranium mining. These documents include a report on the independent review of the regulatory framework against World Best Practice by the Uranium Advisory Group (the UAG Report), the UAG Summary Report, DMP's response to the UAG Report; and the 2009 Interagency Working Group Review (the Interagency Review) on the adequacy of the legislative framework to mange uranium mining in WA.

The independent assessment focussed on the Mining Act 1978 and the Mine Safety and Inspection Act 1994; and their interaction with the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and the Radiation Safety Act 1975. The overall conclusion of the UAG Review was that while the regulatory framework was sufficient, DMP should implement initiatives to improve transparency and communication and look at adopting a risk-based approach to safety and environmental regulation. This is consistent with the findings of the previous 2009 Interagency Review. The review found that the regulatory framework was adequate to manage uranium mining in line with national and international standards, and that WA had 40 years' experience regulating the mining and export of radioactive materials in the mineral sands industry.

DMP's response to the UAG Report addresses issues by including current and future actions that fall within its responsibilities. The focus is on actions to improve the efficiency and transparency of processes, and the implementation of a more risk-based approach in environmental and safety regulation of uranium mining in WA. These actions are either currently being implemented or planned to be implemented, as part of the Reforming Environmental Regulation initiative.

As DMP is the lead agency for uranium projects, the department will also coordinate actions in the recommendations where other agencies are responsible to ensure a World Best Practice framework for uranium mining is adopted in WA.

To date DMP has been working very closely with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and Radiological Council in the formal environmental impact assessment conducted by the EPA for Toro Energy's Wiluna Uranium Mining proposal, to ensure streamlining and clear understanding of the regulatory regime governing different aspects and stages of a uranium mining project, including construction, operation, transport of radioactive materials off site and post mine closure.

For access to an electronic copy of these documents, click here

Contact: Xuan Nguyen 9222 3237

Reminder Programme of Works Exploration (PoW E) online date

From the 31st May 2012, DMP will no longer accept hard copy Programme of Work Exploration (PoW-E) forms. If a PoW-E application is submitted in this format after this date, it will be automatically rejected. These changes do not apply to Programme of Works Prospecting (PoW-P).

To lodge online it is necessary for applicants to register for access to the Environmental Assessment Regulatory System (EARS). To find out how to register for EARS Online click here.

Since the introduction of online lodgement for PoW-E applications in July 2010, the percentage of online lodgements has continued to increase. For the first quarter 2012, DMP received 83 per cent of PoW applications online.

Contact: Kaye Mulligan 9222 3094

Guidelines for Environmentally Responsible Mineral Exploration & Prospecting in Western Australia

Over the last few years, the department has seen a significant increase in the submission of mineral exploration and prospecting proposals, known as Programmes of Work (PoWs). DMP currently receives more than 250 PoWs a month.

In response to the increase in exploration and prospecting activity, DMP have further developed existing Infonotes and have drafted the Guidelines for Environmentally Responsible Mineral Exploration & Prospecting in Western Australia. The aim of these guidelines is to communicate DMP's expectations regarding the quality of PoW applications and to provide the industry with guidance on environmental management and rehabilitation standards.

It is hoped that the provision of more detailed guidance material will have benefits for the environment by increasing the standard of environmental management in exploration and prospecting operations as well as streamlining the approvals system by producing a higher quality of PoW application.

The public comment period for the guidelines ended on 20 April 2012, and the department is in the process of reviewing the comments received prior to finalising the guidelines.

Contact: Danielle Risbey 9222 3593

New Petroleum Environment Regulations

Environmental regulations for to the petroleum and geothermal industry have been prepared by DMP in order to improve the environmental regulation of petroleum and geothermal energy activities undertaken in Western Australia.

The objective of the regulations is to ensure that petroleum and geothermal energy activities are carried out in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and in accordance with an environment plan. An environment plan is submitted to DMP for assessment to demonstrate that the environmental impacts and environmental risks of an activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable. The plan will also demonstrate that appropriate environmental performance objectives, performance standards and measurement criteria have been set.

Stakeholders were invited to make written submissions on the exposure drafts of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources (Environment) Regulations 2011, Petroleum (Submerged Lands)(Environment) Regulations 2011 and the Petroleum Pipelines (Environment) Regulations 2012 before the 29 February 2012. This comment period has now closed and written submissions are being reviewed.

The environmental regulations are based on the Commonwealth Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 which originally commenced in 1999. As an aid to understanding the draft regulations, DMP has also produced draft guidelines for the regulations, titled 'Guidelines for the Preparation and Submission of an Environment Plan'. These are currently being updated to reflect onshore activities.

The draft regulations also deliver on a public commitment made by DMP in response to the review by Dr Tina Hunter into the regulation of shale, coal seam and tight gas activities in Western Australia. The Hunter Review recommended improvements to legal enforceability of the State's petroleum regulatory framework.

The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources (Environment) Regulations 2011, Petroleum (Submerged Lands)(Environment) Regulations 2011 and the Petroleum Pipelines (Environment) Regulations 2012 are due for release mid 2012 and will be posted on DMP's website www.dmp.wa.gov.au.

Contact: Kim Anderson 9222 3142

Approval timeline performance measures

The department has published quarterly approvals performance reports since January 2009.

The reports provide information about the number of applications received, the number assessed within the target timelines and an analysis of approval performance. This enables the department to monitor performance timelines, divisional workloads, identify emerging trends and proactively allocate resources where required.

The results for the first quarter of 2012 have been published and show the percentage of environmental approvals determined within the timeline target were as follows:

Programme of Work 98%
Mining Proposals 83%
Native Veg. Clearing 94.4%
Petroleum Environmental Plans 100%


The following links will take you to where these reports reside on the DMP website.

Approvals Performance Report Q1 2012

Past Quarterly Reports

Contact: Kaye Mulligan 9222 3094

Guidance note for operators planning petroleum activities in Western Australian adjacent Commonwealth waters.

In 2008 the Productivity Commission conducted a review of regulatory burden in the Australian upstream petroleum (oil and gas) sector. As a result of the Productivity Commission's review, the Australian Government established the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) on 1 January 2012 to regulate the upstream petroleum industry in Commonwealth waters of Australia in place of the Designated Authority.

A draft consultation guidance note has been prepared by DMP for use by operators to establish consistent consultation and notification standards between operators and DMP under the amended Regulations 11A, 15 (2) and 26AA of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2011 of the Commonwealth.

The consultation guidance note will be released by DMP in May 2012.

Concurrently to the release of the consultation guidance note, DMP is consulting with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority (OEPA), the Department of Fisheries (DoF) and the Department of Transport (DoT) to determine whether this guidance note is applicable to a range of State Government Departments who request consultation from operators planning petroleum activities in Western Australian adjacent Commonwealth Waters.

Contact: Kim Anderson 9222 3142

Government collaboration in native vegetation conservation management training

DMP's Native Vegetation Assessment Branch staff recently completed training with environmental officers from Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) relating to the management of land degradation in Western Australia. The training was delivered by Andrew Watson, WA Commissioner for Soil and Land Conservation and John Firth, from the Department of Agriculture and Food and covered case studies on nutrient loads and salinity.

The training will deliver improved technical skills for conducting environmental assessments of clearing permit applications as required under the Environmental Protection Act 1986. The training was one in a series being coordinated through DEC's Native Vegetation Conservation Branch focussing on assisting regulatory officers in addressing the native vegetation clearing principles as described in the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

This is an ongoing initiative between the DEC and DMP to ensure that there is consistency between agencies in the management of native vegetation clearing in WA.

DMP is delegated authority through DEC for administering, assessing and issuing clearing permits for mineral and petroleum activities. For more information on native vegetation clearing requirements click here.