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Courtney Houssos land use

With a significant number of mining sites slated for closure in the coming decade, the NSW Parliament will launch an inquiry to investigate new and innovative approaches to post-mining land use.

Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos has written to Emily Suvaal, chair of NSW Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on State Development, asking her to undertake the inquiry which will help to ensure mine sites can continue to bring economic investment and opportunities to regional communities even after the mines close.

Minister Houssos said this is an important inquiry that will help deliver positive community benefits in regional areas across NSW.

“Mining is a temporary use of land. We need to make sure NSW has the right policy mix to keep employment and economic opportunities even after mines close.

“We will work with industry, local government, and unions to bring forward these exciting opportunities.

“We need to make sure these large mine sites can continue to be put to economically productive and efficient use long into the future.”

There are more than 50 large active mine sites across NSW, 37 of which are coal mines. There are also other sites which were previously used for mining which continue to offer opportunities for new, productive uses of land.

Earlier this year, the NSW Resources Regulator signed off on the rehabilitation of part of the old Rhondda Colliery in Lake Macquarie. The Black Rock Motor Park and Tourism Resort will take over part of the site, bringing 450 jobs during construction and 229 permanent roles.

BHP’s Mt Arthur, Idemitsu’s Muswellbrook coal mine, and Yancoal’s Stratford coal mine are all investigating opportunities for pumped hydro and other clean energy uses.

However, due to the barriers in the current mine planning, approval and rehabilitation framework there are very few examples of mines being redeveloped once they receive their certificate for closure.

This inquiry is a much-needed step towards opening up opportunities for new and innovative approaches to post-mining land use.

The inquiry will consider how to accelerate and facilitate these uses, including through the development of sites for use for advanced manufacturing, commercial and tourism use, reforms to the rehabilitation and planning regulatory frameworks which support mines, and opportunities to promote the development of solar farms, pumped hydro and other clean energy industries which may be particularly suited to the form and nature of former mine sites.

It will consider the potential of unlocking surrounding land for residential dwellings, amenities, environmental and educational facilities, the compatibility of post mining land sites with commercial projects and also what investments in skills and training are needed to support the mining workforce.

The State Government has also launched their proposed model for the Future Jobs and Investment Authorities, an important framework to support workers and communities for a future beyond coal.

The Future Jobs and Investment Advocate will work with communities and workers to provide what they need when coal mines and coal-fired power stations shut down.

It will support communities in the Hunter, Illawarra, Central West and Northwest where more than 125,000 workers are directly or indirectly employed by the industry.

Proposals and projects suggested by the authorities will be tailed to each mining region so they can drive investment opportunities like renewable energy manufacturing in the Hunter, facilitate beneficial post mining land uses, support opportunities for local manufacturing and ensuring a pipeline of skills to support the activation of new industries by providing access to TAFE.

Minister Houssos launched Labor’s plan at BHP’s Mt Arthur mine at Muswellbrook and said this is a once in a generation opportunity to get it right.

“For the first time in our paper we are mapping out the timeline. We know there are some imminently planned closures, like here at Mt Arthur. What our paper shows is the bulk of those jobs are in the next decade into 2035 and 2040 so we really need to make sure we have those supports in place.

“What we want to do is find bespoke solutions, this model allows the local innovation to happen.”

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