The mining and burning of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley has had a huge impact on the traditional lands of the Gunnaikurnai people over the last 100 years.
As coal power stations in the Valley inevitably close, power station owners have a legal responsibility to ‘rehabilitate’ the mine sites to reduce the risk of future environmental disasters.
Mine rehabilitation is the process of repairing the damage done by mining activity. This can involve simply making the site safe and stable, but global best
practice strives to create a landscape that can support future uses of the land – such as returning it to an agricultural landscape or identifying new beneficial uses.
At a practical level, coal mine rehabilitation typically involves flattening the steep sides of the mine, covering exposed coal with soil and clay and re-vegetating the area with trees and grasses. In the case of the Latrobe Valley mine sites, the government’s Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy (LVRRS) released in June 2020 sets out a number of principles for how to achieve “safe, stable and sustainable” outcomes.
Mine rehabilitation has never been completed at the scale that is required in the Latrobe Valley.
Government agencies, the mine operators and the community are embarking on a giant experiment.