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30 June 2021 update on the LVRRS implementation

Since the Strategy’s launch on 26 June 2020, the Victorian Government has undertaken further studies to support mine rehabilitation planning in the Latrobe Valley.

As outlined in the Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy (LVRRS), we have collaborated with mine licensees and other stakeholders to explore the following issues:

  • Potential water sources and access arrangements for mine licensees to undertake rehabilitation, while protecting existing uses and values of the Latrobe River system, under a range of possible climate scenarios.
  • Climate resilient water sources that could create the certainty that a safe and stable mine rehabilitation can be achieved over the longer term.
  • Less water intensive rehabilitation options, and contingency options for water-based rehabilitation plans.

In the coming months, the LVRRS project team will consult and communicate the draft findings of these studies.

The Latrobe Valley has been the home of Victoria’s coal production for the last century. As we move away from coal use, mine closures will have lasting impacts on the Latrobe Valley community. Hazelwood closed in 2017 with Loy Yang and Yallorn closing in the next 30 years.

Rehabilitation of these sites will take decades, so a clear long-term strategy can present the region with positive and practical solutions.

The LVRRS provides guidance to the mine licensees, government, the community and other key stakeholders on issues that need to be considered in planning for and undertaking rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley’s 3 brown coal mines—Hazelwood, Yallourn and Loy Yang.

The LVRRS is clear that mine rehabilitation must plan for a drying climate and that the rights of existing water users—including farmers, towns, industry and Traditional Owner values—will be fully protected during any rehabilitation process.

The Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy (LVRRS) helps find a pathway toward safe, stable and sustainable land forms that support future uses for the mine sites and its adjacent land. One potential solution involves stabilising the mine pits (or voids) with full or partial pit lakes.

The strategy was informed by a series of studies such as geotechnical reports, land use studies and water studies. The Latrobe Valley Regional Water Study filled important knowledge gaps that helped planning authorities assess this option.

Yes, the Latrobe community has been involved with the development of the LVRRS from the beginning with the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry in 2015/16.

Consultation with the community and other key stakeholders on the LVRRS throughout the project included:

  • more than 1,500 people participated in market research for the LVRRS to gain a comprehensive understanding of community attitudes towards brown coal mine rehabilitation in the Latrobe Valley
  • more than 50 meetings and briefings with 395 attendees
  • 11 workshops with more than 140 attendees
  • 10 Open days, community sessions and events with more than attendees 150
  • more than 100 submissions were received through public consultation processes on the Preliminary Land Use Vision and LVRRS Overview
  • 12 focus groups with more than 100 attendees
  • more than 20 meetings with the LVMRAC.

DJPR published the Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy an overview of the LVRRS for public consultation on Engage Victoria on 20 November 2019. The consultation closed on 17 January 2020. Submissions made public for viewing can be accessed.

The Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Advisory Committee (LVMRAC) played a vital role in stakeholder and community engagement throughout the preparation of the LVRRS. The Committee acts as a conduit to broader stakeholder engagement in the Latrobe Valley during the project's life. The LVMRAC provided direct advice to the Minister for Resources on preparation of the LVRRS.

Members of this Committee represent stakeholder groups included:

  • the Latrobe Valley community
  • Latrobe City Council
  • Gippsland Water
  • Southern Rural Water
  • the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council
  • Traditional Owners
  • government department representatives.

Committee members’ terms of appointment were extended until December 2023 to support the implementation of the Strategy and the inaugural review of the strategy in 2023.

The Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority (MLRA) is an independent body established in June 2020 to oversee the implementation of the LVRRS. They track and evaluate the Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy as it progresses.

Careful planning for mine rehabilitation is important when working toward a positive post-mining legacy.

The strategy aims toward 6 main outcomes:

  1. People, land, environment and infrastructure are protected.
  2. Land is returned to a safe, stable and sustainable landform.
  3. Aboriginal values are protected.
  4. Communities are engaged, and their aspirations inform the transformation.
  5. Long-term benefits and future opportunities for the community are optimised.
  6. An integrated approach to rehabilitation and regional resource management is adopted.

Our drier climate calls for closer consideration on how we use water. Uncertainty in future water availability poses risks to the mines’ rehabilitation. We might not have enough water at the time it’s needed.

If filled, the LVRRS states that the mine voids could need up to 2,800 gigalitres (GL) of water. This is around 5 Sydney Harbours. Every year, it might need an extra 15 GL because the water will evaporate.

In comparison, Gippsland Water supplied towns (excluding industry) with 12.8 gigalitres of water in 2017–18.

Any water used for mine rehabilitation should not negatively impact the rights of others.

This includes the environmental flows and Traditional owner values of the Latrobe river system.

The Victorian Government will explore alternate water options for mine rehabilitation.

Options may include recycled water or desalinated water. If there's not enough water, they might consider non-water-based options that manage the land stability and fire risks.

The strategy explores other water sources for the rehabilitation. Thorough research and studies will look at:

  • protecting existing uses and values of the Latrobe river system
  • how to achieve this under a range of possible climate scenarios
  • whether building a climate-resilient water source could work
  • less water intensive rehabilitation options
  • contingency options for water-based rehabilitation plans.

It also looks at access arrangements for mine licensees to carry out the work.

Protecting the rights of all water users

The LVRRS is clear the mine rehabilitation must protect the rights of existing water users in the Latrobe Valley.

The Victorian Government is working with many groups on this:

  • The Gunaikurnai people for whom the area has cultural and environmental value.
  • Towns, industries and farmers rely on the river system for their livelihood.
  • Communities rely on this system for clean drinking water.
  • Catchment authorities and water authorities also need certainty.
  • Water for the environment supplies habitats and preserves healthy ecosystems.

Using water in mine rehabilitation

The LVRRS has considered the stability and fire risks of coal mine voids and if filling them with water will minimise the risks. It also gives guidance to mine licensees who rely on local surface water and groundwater.

The findings of the strategy is that relying on surface and groundwater is not possible because of a drying climate.

The LVRRS has not committed the Government to water-based mine rehabilitation. But, there is acceptance that it may need water for safe and stable rehabilitation.

The Victorian Government is looking at alternative options for mine rehabilitation that do not rely on water from the Latrobe river system.

This means exploring alternate water options for mine rehabilitation including using:

  • recycled water
  • desalinated water
  • non-water-based options.

Mine rehabilitation has long timeframes, so we must consider climate change in our decision-making.

Surface water in the Latrobe river system has decreased in the past 20 years.

Climate change and increased variability make future water security more uncertain.

LVRRS will further investigate rehabilitation approaches that manage the mines’ safety and stability risks against the uncertainty of climate change.

The implementation of the strategy will provide mine licensees with further options available for mine rehabilitation that will inform the preparation of mine licensees' Declared Mine Rehabilitation and Post Closure Plans. This includes the following:

  • Further exploring alternative water options, such as recycled water or desalinated water, if a water-based mine rehabilitation approach remains the preferred approach for mine licensees.
  • The opportunities that could be delivered for regional development, irrigation, industry and jobs from additional water being made available within the region will also be considered.
  • Providing guidance on how to assess the future water availability from the Latrobe River system.
  • Identifying non-water-based options to manage land stability and fire risks if sufficient water is not available.

Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy

Page last updated: 08/09/23