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Derelict mines may represent the “largest contamination liability” facing the NSW Government and the funds allocated to the issue are not enough, according to a report by the Audit Office of NSW.
In a document released late last year NSW Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat said the cost to repair derelict mines was currently not known.
“There are a large number of contaminated sites in New South Wales and the cost to remediate them is largely unknown,” he said in a statement.
“The Office of Environment and Heritage advised that the cost of cleaning up derelict mines would be substantial and that the few million dollars allocated annually to the Derelict Mines Program are substantially inadequate.”
Achterstraat said there were just over 300 mine sites in NSW that were “significantly contaminated” and 1,070 still needed to be assessed.
Almost 950 of the sites needing examination were related to services stations and petroleum sites.
Once a company walks away from a mine its ownership reverts to the Crown, with improper remediation posing risks to the environment and personal safety.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald around $2 million has been allocated to remediating derelict mines, in addition to a one-off funding grant to fix the Woodsreef asbestos mine north of Tamworth.
In a report on the issue the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy previously said the regeneration of a mine site was “for the large part not a cheap exercise” and can sometimes take decades.
It said once a mine was abandoned there was ambiguity over environmental regulation and sites could fall into a legislative “black hole”.