To ensure that potential impacts on the environment are minimised, the Minister for Resources & Energy is empowered to impose conditions on titles under the following legislation:

Environmental and rehabilitation performance is enforced and regulated through this process. For example, conditions attached to:

  • Exploration Licences require companies to seek approval for certain prospecting operations which disturb the surface of the land and to submit a security deposit which covers the full rehabilitation liability.
  • Mining Leases require companies; to submit a Mining Operations Plan (MOP) prior to commencing operations and a security deposit which covers the full rehabilitation liability. Annual Environmental Management Reports (AEMR) are also required which document the progress of mining operations and rehabilitation.
  • Petroleum Production Leases require companies to submit a Petroleum Operations Plan (POP) prior to commencing operations and a security deposit which covers the full rehabilitation liability. Annual Environmental Management Reports (AEMR) are also required.

See Standard Conditions

Environmental assessment under the EP&A Act

Most exploration activitites and all mining and petroleum projects require environmental assessment under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) before they can start.

The comprehensive merit-based  assessment under the EP&A Act considers a broad range of environmental issues including biodiversity, water management, alternative uses of the land and whether the proposed development is in the best interests of the State. The ecological sustainability of the development, including inter-generational equity, social and economic factors, is also considered.

For most exploration activities, the proponent must submit an application for approval to the NSW Department of Industry and prepare a Review of Environmental Factors (REF).  Certain exploration activities with minimal environmental impact have been identified as exempt development under State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 and do not require further approval prior to being carried out.

For most large mining and petroleum production projects, the proponent must submit an application for development consent with the Department of Planning & Environment and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Review of Environmental Factors (REF)

A REF is a document which sets out how an exploration activity is likely to impact the environment. The purpose of a REF is to inform the Department's consideration of the likely environmental impact of the activity. The length and complexity of a REF will depend on the nature of the environmental impact.

Further information is provided in ESG2: Guideline for preparing a Review of Environmental Factors.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

The EIS is a comprehensive document that covers issues such as air quality, noise, transport, flora and fauna, surface and ground water management, methods of mining or petroleum production, landscape management and rehabilitation. Extensive public consultation is also required, with community members encouraged to make submissions on the application.

Approval process for new coal, mineral and petroleum developments

The NSW Department of Planning & Environment is the consent authority for large scale mining and petroleum production projects. NSW Department of Industry, Resources & Energy is one of a number of key government agencies who are consulted as part of the approval process for new coal, mineral and petroleum developments. It is responsible for commenting primarily on rehabilitation, safety, resource utilisation and relevant environmental management matters.

For exploration activities, NSW Department of Industry is the determining authority.  Proponents are generally required to submit a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) that addresses all potential impacts of the proposal, including potential impacts on the environment, water resources and the community. Approval will not be given if the relevant approval agency considers that the environmental impacts of the project are unacceptable.

If a project is approved, conditions on approvals are imposed to minimise potential environmental impacts. Rehabilitation and environmental performance conditions are also attached to all authorities (exploration and mining) issued under the Mining  Act 1992 and petroleum titles issued under the Petroleum  (Onshore) Act 1991.

This stringent regulatory approach works to ensure that all projects, including exploration, mining and petroleum activities, are thoroughly assessed and their environmental impacts are properly regulated and controlled.