The NSW Minerals Council has launched two handbooks which aim to establish new standards for the way the industry interacts with the community and environment.
The organisation announced both guidelines at its Environment and Community Conference in Wollongong, which kicked off last night and run throughout this morning.
The Mineral Exploration Handbook: Towards Environmental Excellence, launched by the new NSW Minister for Primary Industries Steve Whan on Sunday night, aims to promote leading practice for explorers across the State.
NSW Minerals Council chief executive Dr Nikki Williams said the handbook would be a key reference tool that provides guidance on issues such as planning, communication, impact management and rehabilitation.
“First impressions count and our explorers lay the foundation for the whole minerals industry” she said.
“This new guideline highlights some of the best examples from around the State where the industry is getting it right and delivering quality outcomes for the environment and the community.
“While it is not possible or practical to have prescriptive instructions for every scenario, this concise guide provides an overview of the factors that explorers may need to consider when planning, conducting, monitoring, rehabilitating and reporting on their activities.
“Exploration is a key driver of the NSW economy and the $23 billion minerals industry, which directly employs 32,000 people and 38,000 more in minerals processing.
“For NSW to be competitive nationally and internationally, the State must have a sustainable mining industry founded on a responsible and targeted exploration program.”
The second handbook, the NSW Minerals Industry Due Diligence Code of Practice for the Protection of Aboriginal Objects was launched this morning.
Williams said the guidelines would help miners and explorers minimise the risk of harming Aboriginal objects and meet new legislative requirements.
“The history of the Aboriginal people is woven into the fabric of the NSW landscape as well as in their memories, stories and associations,” she said.
“The minerals industry is an important partner in the preservation of Aboriginal heritage and this Code is part of our commitment to protecting Indigenous culture.
“Companies aim to avoid disturbing Aboriginal objects, but if that is not possible, they work with the Aboriginal community and the Government to ensure any impacts are properly assessed, approved and managed.”
Williams cited the storage of artefacts in during mining operations with the agreement of the Indigenous community as an example of heritage protection in practice.
The Minerals Council also announced the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue, which would begin an open discussion in the region between industry and the community about future challenges and solutions.
Williams said the mining industry had to continue to improve the way it operates to keep up with community expectations and standards.
“The minerals sector will make an increasingly important contribution to the NSW economy, generating $6.8 billion in royalty payments over the next four years,” she said.
“The combined scale of that growth brings enormous opportunities for the State and for our mining regions, but we also have to look at the cumulative impacts of what we do.
“We understand the genuine concerns in parts of the community and we want to do more to deal with issues about mining in a proactive and sensitive way.
“The community is moving its focus beyond the boundaries of individual mine sites and the industry is shifting its focus too.
“Past practices alone will not be good enough to meet future challenges.
“That is why there is a genuine commitment within the industry to take a fresh approach and come up with solutions in collaboration with each other and with the community, rather than solely as individual operations.”