Victorian coal mine operators will have to comply with tough new regulations aimed at reducing the risk of fire in the wake of last year’s Hazelwood mine blaze.
The fire burned for 45 days and covered the nearby town of Morwell, in Victoria’s east, in smoke and ash.
An independent inquiry into the fire handed down 18 recommendations to the former state government and the mine’s operator GDF Suez.
The State Government is enacting one of those recommendations by introducing new conditions on coal mining licences to reduce the risk of another major mine fire before next summer.
Under the changes, mine operators in the Latrobe Valley will be required to submit fire risk assessment and management plans to the Government by October.
Operators will need to assess the likelihood and impact of a fire occurring in the worked-out areas of their mines as well as the best way to stop it from igniting.
Premier Daniel Andrews said a number of experts would be involved in ensuring the operators complied.
“This is not a matter of the mines themselves coming up with some ideas that they think might work,” Mr Andrews said.
There are penalties, very significant financial penalties, levelled against mines that don’t do the right thing.
Daniel Andrews, Victorian Premier
“We will monitor this and we will take the best advice from Craig Lapsley from Emergency Services and others, coordinated to make sure that those assessments are accurate.”
Mr Andrews said tough penalties would apply to mine operators that did not follow the rules.
“I don’t have the exact numbers to hand but there are penalties, very significant financial penalties, levelled against mines that don’t do the right thing,” he said.
“There’s also that ultimate penalty of basically they could lose their licence.”
Mine operators will also be required to publically report on mine rehabilitation each year.
Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio said the Government would investigate best practice for mine rehabilitation when the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry was reopened this year.
“We will not allow anything to slip,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“We are committed to ensuring that the community can finally have full confidence in a regime and regulatory response that will ensure the maximum possibilities of the health and safety of their communities.”