Frequently Asked Questions - Environment

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About the Minerals Council of Australia

The MCA is the leading advocate for Australia's world class minerals industry, promoting and enhancing sustainability, profitability and competitiveness. The MCA represents a world-leading minerals sector that is dynamic, diverse, sustainable and valued by all Australians. Read more.

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Is mining bad for the environment?

Australia sets the standards for social responsibility, environmental management and governance in mining.

Environmental officers, social scientists, anthropologists, accountants, lawyers, safety experts, statisticians, community liaisons, plant scientists and more, help companies meet community expectations and adhere to tight regulations.

Land rehabilitation is fundamental to responsible mining. The industry’s approach has improved significantly over past decades.

How does mining manage its environmental impacts?

Environmental management practices in the minerals industry are highly regulated and subject to oversight by local, state and, as required, Commonwealth regulatory agencies. 

The regulatory framework requires the minerals industry seek avoid environmental harm and to manage and offset any environmental impacts.

To support good environmental practice, many companies also adhere to voluntary sustainability codes of conduct including the MCA’s Enduring Value – The Australian Minerals Industry Framework for Sustainable Development.  Internal expertise and practice is also often complemented by partnerships with local, regional and national environmental experts and organisations.

Does mining take land away from farmers?

Australia’s minerals industry has a long history of working with farmers and other landholders for shared benefit. 

There are many examples of productive co-existence between miners and farmers across all stages of mine life, including on rehabilitated land.  

Robust legislation is also in place in all states and the Northern Territory to recognise and respect the rights and interests of landholders, including farmers.

Are mining companies doing anything about climate change?

Yes. The Australian minerals industry supports participation in global agreements such as the Paris Agreement, which would hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Australian mining businesses are working together to make our contribution to lowering emissions.  This includes reducing the emissions from minerals extraction and processing, energy efficiency initiatives and increasing the use of renewable energy in operations.

Do Australian mining companies rehabilitate land after mining?

Yes. Australian mining companies understand land rehabilitation is fundamental to responsible mining. 

Planning for rehabilitation takes place long before mining commences, and rehabilitation is undertaken progressively during the life of a mine wherever practical.

The industry’s approach to land rehabilitation has improved significantly over past decades, and the industry is continuing its efforts to improve rehabilitation methods to ensure mining’s compatibility with current and future land uses.

Do you work to make land available for other uses after mining is finished?

Yes. The minerals industry’s goal is for mined land to be available for community, economic activity or conservation once rehabilitation is complete.  

Glencore’s Mangoola Open Cut mine in the Upper Hunter Valley and Newlands and Rolleston Open Cut mines in Queensland demonstrate the success of modern mine rehabilitation.

How do companies rehabilitate land after mining?

The mine rehabilitation and closure planning process commences before mining begins and is an important part of the project development and approval process.  The MCA’s Mine Rehabilitation Brochure outlines common rehabilitation activities undertaken across the mining lifecycle.

What is the minerals industry doing to minimise its water use?

Water availability and security of supply is a critical issue for the minerals industry as an essential input to mining and minerals processing and maintaining safety.

Water use by Australia’s minerals industry is comprehensively regulated, represents a comparatively small share of national water consumption and generates high economic value. Gross value-add per gigalitre of water used in 2016-17 was $272 million for coal mining, $141 million for metal ore mining and $64 million for non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying.

Mining’s water use as a share of national consumption also fell from 3.9 per cent to 3.7 per cent between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

Although the minerals industry is a comparatively small user of water nationally, the industry can be a significant water user at a local or regional level. The minerals industry continues to work to further reduce its water use in line with a long-standing commitment to responsible water management, which includes:

  • investing significantly in water infrastructure to support sustainable water use
  • identifying opportunities for beneficial water use by third parties, including for agricultural production and town water supply
  • supporting and investing in research and development to improve scientific knowledge of local water system and catchment health.