The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) assesses environmental proposals for prospecting, mining exploration and development activities in accordance with the Mining Act 1978 for onshore mining activities in Western Australia (WA) and the Offshore Minerals Act 2003 for mining activities within WA State waters.
Unconditional Performance Bonds (UPB) may be imposed as mining securities for compliance with environmental conditions imposed under the Mining Act 1978 in some cases.
The Mining Rehabilitation Fund Act 2012 and the Mining Rehabilitation Fund Regulations 2013 provide a legislative framework for declaring abandoned mine sites and enables the Mining Rehabilitation Fund to receive levy contributions made by WA mining operators for the rehabilitation of abandoned mines.
DMIRS also assesses environmental proposals for petroleum and geothermal activities in accordance with:
- Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources (Resource Management and Administration) Regulations 2015 - covers operations relating to petroleum activities;
- Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources (Environment) Regulations 2012 - covers environmental approvals relating to petroleum activities located in onshore areas of the State, including islands and internal waters;
- Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Environment) Regulations 2012 - covers environmental approvals relating to petroleum activities within WA State waters; and
- Petroleum Pipelines (Environment) Regulations 2012 - covers environmental approvals relating to onshore petroleum pipelines.
Native vegetation clearing permits are assessed by DMIRS under delegation from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation in accordance with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and the Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004. Permits may be required for mining or petroleum activities.
DMIRS' Resource and Environmental Compliance Division has an outcomes-focused regulatory system that requires robust compliance monitoring, reporting and data management to evaluate the performance of industry in achieving environmental outcomes. This is delivered through a risk-based, outcomes-focused assessment and compliance system with prioritisation of resources to manage compliance assurance, inspections and enforcement.
State environmental approvals
Mining, petroleum and geothermal activity proposals that may have a significant impact on the environment will be referred to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for environmental impact assessment under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
Commonwealth environmental approvals
Mining, petroleum and geothermal activity proposals likely to have significant impact to matters of national environmental significance should be referred by the company for environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth). The Commonwealth and State have a bilateral agreement where environmental impact assessments may be undertaken by the EPA.
Environmental risks and impacts associated with petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities in Commonwealth waters are assessed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) in accordance with the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009.
Guidance note on environmental non-compliance and incident reporting
DMIRS' compliance program for the minerals, petroleum, geothermal and greenhouse gas storage sectors includes a range of activities to achieve operator compliance with legislation and policies relevant to the relevant sector.
At the core of the department’s approach is the primary objective of fostering voluntary compliance with environmental obligations. This is in line with increased community expectations in relation to environmental performance, disclosure and transparency in the resources sector. To meet this expectation, the department has updated and improved the process by which industry can self-report environmental non-compliances and incidents.
For information on how to report a non-compliance or incident, please refer to the Resource and Environmental Compliance Division’s Guidance Note on Environmental Non-compliances and Incident Reporting.
Non-compliance and Incidents Reporting Requirements - Minerals
Tenement holders / operators should notify DMIRS of all non-compliances and reportable environmental incidents.
These are defined as:
Non-compliance – a particular requirement of the tenement conditions or the legislation has not been complied with:
For Mining Proposals approved under the 2006 Guidelines (now superseded)
All tenements associated with a Mining Proposal approved under the “Guidelines for Mining Proposals in Western Australia" February 2006 are subject to a standard condition requiring tenement holders to construct and operate the project in accordance with the approved Mining Proposal document. In this circumstance, approval via submission of a new Mining Proposal must be sought for any changes to the operation which are at variance with the existing approved Mining Proposals. Failure to construct and operate the project in accordance with approved Mining Proposals is considered a breach of tenement conditions.
For Mining Proposals approved under the 2020 Statutory Guidelines for Mining Proposals or the previous 2016 Guidelines for Mining Proposals (now superseded)
For mining operations with a Mining Proposal approved under the "Statutory Guidelines for Mining Proposals" March 2020 or the previous "Guideline for Mining Proposals in Western Australia" April 2016 (now superseded) a reportable, environmental incident, is:
- an incident that breaches any environmental outcome or performance criteria of the approved Mining Proposal; and
- an incident arising from mining activities that has caused, or has the potential to cause environmental harm or injury to land.
Timeframes for Reporting Incidents or Non-compliance - Minerals
Reportable Environmental Incident
All tenements associated with a Mining Proposal approved under the "Statutory Guidelines for Mining Proposals" March 2020 or the previous "Guideline for Mining Proposals in Western Australia" April 2016 (now superseded) are subject to a standard condition requiring tenement holders to notify DMIRS of any reportable environmental incidents within twenty four hours of detection. Failure to notify DMIRS of a reportable incident would be a breach of condition and the mining tenements would potentially be subject to forfeiture action under the Mining Act 1978.
Following the initial notification, DMIRS will require an investigation report to be provided within a timeframe agreed with the department. The timeframe in which an investigation report is required to be submitted will be determined on a case by case basis depending on the nature of the incident. The report will outline the details of the incident, explaining how it occurred, the impacts on the environment and any remedial actions taken.
If not a reportable environmental incident, tenement holders should report all non-compliances to DMIRS within three days of identification.