WA Auditor General urges more focus on mining compliance
Western Australia’s Auditor General Colin Murphy has submitted a report to State Parliament outlining the need for increased focus on compliance with mining conditions in the state.
Mr Murphy found that while state agencies were improving in their handling of project assessments and approvals, more must be done to ensure compliance with conditions on mining.
Mr Murphy said responsibility for monitoring and ensuring compliance with conditions rests with several agencies, and performance varies significantly across these agencies, and across key conditions.
“Financial returns to the State from mining are well managed, but current weaknesses in how some social, environmental and economic conditions are monitored and enforced need to be addressed,” Mr Murphy said.
The report concluded that the monitoring and enforcement of environmental conditions were in need of significant improvement.
Mr Murphy said mine operators were required to submit Annual Environmental Reports (AER) to the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) but only about half those sampled had done so, and DMP had rarely followed up.
“The AERs provide regular information on whether the mines are minimising their impact on the environment but not enough of them are being reviewed and the information is not well used in monitoring industry compliance,” Mr Murphy said,
“There is also a risk that poor compliance will not be detected on a number of State Agreement mines because the Department of State Development (DSD) and DMP have differing understandings of who should be monitoring and enforcing conditions on these mines.”
Mr Murphy said agencies reported a number of environmental offsets in place, however different agencies established and managed these offsets differently resulting in poor transparency and accountability.
In relation to local content obligations, Mr Murphy found that DSD tracks the use of local services, material and labour on State Agreement mines but it was not actively assessing if operators are meeting their obligations to maximise local content.
Mine operators are also required to comply with relevant Aboriginal heritage conditions and the audit report found that the Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) has not effectively monitored or enforced compliance with these conditions, and as a result, heritage sites may have been lost or damaged without the State knowing or acting.
Mr Murphy also identified that while stronger requirements for mine closure and rehabilitation have been introduced, the State is still exposed to significant financial risks.
The full report can be downloaded from the Auditor General’s website here