Vic coal mines to get higher rehab bills

Victoria’s coal mine owners will pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for their rehabilitation after Premier Daniel Andrews said current levels were “not good enough”.

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The existing rehabilitation bonds for the Gippsland mines will be increased in June from $15 million or less to $34.25 million for Yallourn, $36.7 million for Hazelwood, and $56 million for Loy Yang.

They will all then double again – to the current estimated rehabilitation liability for each mine – by January 2017.

Mr Andrews on Friday said the mines’ owners were all profitable enough to absorb the additional costs.

“They themselves have not been required to put away anywhere near an adequate amount to cover the cost,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Friday.

“They’ve made an assessment of what it costs to rehabilitate these mines and they’ve been allowed to get away with putting away a mere fraction of that.”

The Premier rejected suggestions the bond increase could cost jobs.

“These are profitable companies. Let’s not have any of this talk that jobs are at risk – they are not at all,” he said.

The recommended increase came from the Hazelwood Mine Fine Inquiry, which was reopened to assess the number of deaths the fire caused and the future rehabilitation prospects of coal mines in Morwell.

A bushfire got into the Hazelwood coal mine in February 2014 and blanketed the nearby town with smoke and ash for 45 days.

ENGIE, owner of Hazelwood, said it is reviewing the information and recommendations before commenting further.

“ENGIE is committed to the implementation of a technically sound rehabilitation plan and will continue to work with regulators and other stakeholders to ensure successful long-term rehabilitation of the Hazelwood mine,” the company said in a statement.

AGL, which owns the Loy Yang mine, said it is committed to the long-term rehabilitation of the site, which will close in 2048.

“Last year we commenced a project to relocate part of our overburden system into the mine which will accelerate mine rehabilitation activities in the coming years,” AGL said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Energy Australia, which owns the Yallourn mine, said it would meet its obligations to rehabilitate the site and manage any fire risks.

“To date at Yallourn more than 85 per cent of the area once disturbed by mining – around 2744 hectares – has been covered,” she told AAP.