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Mine lease relinquishment

Date:
By Tara OBrien
Category: Consulting

Client:  Fishers Property Group Pty Ltd (Fishers)

Location:  South Street, South Kempsey, NSW

Task: Relinquish a mine lease for a clay shale mine

When Fishers Property Group Pty Ltd bought a South Kempsey property, they were faced with relinquishing a clay shale mine lease before they could move ahead with plans to establish an asphalt batching plant. 

Background 

Clark Bricks started the clay mine in 1976, although it’s likely a clay pit was present prior to that time. Boral Bricks Pty Ltd took over the site in 1982 and maintained operations until closure of the site on 30 June 2009.  Fishers Property Group Pty Ltd acquired the site in 2014. The mine lease was first granted in 1999 and was transferred from Boral to Fishers in 2016.  

Fishers did not intend to continue the clay mining and brick making operations and was keen to undertake alternative industrial enterprises for the site, in alignment with the Kempsey Shire Council land zoning.  

A development application (DA) to construct and operate an asphalt batching plant was granted in 2015 on the former brick storage area. A further DA was approved for the land between the brickworks buildings and Sandstock Road for the subdivision and construction of industrial buildings which also commenced in 2015. The brickworks building itself was occupied by Fishers, as well as being sub-let to a number of companies.

Mine Lease Case StudySite conditions  

When Fishers acquired the site the clay pit was not active but had not been rehabilitated to any great extent.  The former void was filled with water with exposed slopes of no more than three horizontal to one vertical batters leading to the water body.  

Vegetated bundwalls and undisturbed bushland surrounded the main pit area. The former brickworks buildings remained, although all infrastructure, plant and equipment had been removed from the buildings.  

A large concrete hardstand area, previously used to store bricks as well as a number of sedimentation dams, was located to the west of the buildings.  Bricks were also stored to the east of the brickworks buildings and in a separate hardstand area to the west, adjacent to West End Road that transects the property.  

South of the buildings lay a hardstand area for storing raw materials including sawdust used in the brick production which still remained on-site.  Gills Bridge Creek also transects the property in a south west to north easterly direction and eventually the MacLeay River. 

Challenges  

There were a number of unique challenges to achieving relinquishment, given the many varied final land uses proposed on the site.  

1.Final land use and consent

The environmental assessment presumed to be submitted with the original DA to council could not be located, therefore the Mine Lease Conditions (1999) and MOP became the primary framework for developing the final landform and rehabilitation objectives.  

Development on the site progressed fairly rapidly and piece by piece new final land uses were overtaking the original rehabilitation plans.  This presented some difficulty in maintaining an up to date and relevant MOP and particularly the relevance of a mine lease over land that was used for non-mining purposes.

Ultimately, council provided the DRG with assurances that it was satisfied with the rehabilitation and final land uses that were currently proposed, in the dearth of specific consent requirements.  The relinquishment report was submitted shortly after this and the mine lease was relinquished in 2020.

2. Rehabilitation of the mine void slopes

Given the industrial land zoning and value to the landowner of further industrial development on the site, it was agreed the original post mining land use of ‘woodland’ over the former void slopes was not appropriate and be substituted for ‘grassland’. The MOP was suitably amended.  

The sawdust waste material remaining on-site was found to be suitable to mix with imported mulch used to rehabilitation the void slopes, thus recycling an otherwise waste product.  Native indigenous species were planted and watered during the establishment phase using the pit void water.  

3. Water management

The final water body in the former void remains in the final landform.  Once rehabilitation of the slopes was completed, testing of the water body confirmed it met the appropriate ANZECC water quality guidelines and would not be a source of pollution for Gills Bridge Creek should it over top.  

4. The asphalt batch plant and industrial subdivision

At the time of the submission of the Relinquishment Report, the construction of industrial buildings on Sandstock Road had commenced and the DRG were thus satisfied the final land use had been met. 

5. Former brickworks building

The buildings were now in use by Fishers as well as sub-let to other businesses.  Fishers provided documentation to the DRG from independent inspections that no hazards (such as asbestos) remained and the DRG was satisfied the buildings posed no potential hazards or future liabilities and that the final land use for this domain had been achieved.

6. Former material stockpile area

The former material stockpile area consisted of a compacted clay base and the Asphalt Batch Plant continued to use the area for storage. Fishers sealed the area with road base aggregate and eliminated the issue of entrained sediment material entering the water management system from this domain. 

VGT’s tasks  

VGT was tasked with assisting Fishers to achieve relinquishment of the mine lease of 77.27 Ha in size.  The process involved liaison with the NSW Resources and Geoscience Division (DRG), the NSW Resources Regulator and the Titles Services Division of the DRG.  

The process was multi-faceted and involved a number of steps to be undertaken as outlined below.

  • Ensure that the final landform was compatible with the proposed final land uses, including the consequent development approvals sought.

  • Develop a Mine Operation Plan (MOP) that reflected the proposed final land uses and clearly state the completion criteria that will be used by the DRG to assess completion of rehabilitation.  Achieve approval of the MOP from DRG.

  • Continue to liaise with Fishers and specialist revegetation personnel to ensure rehabilitation goals were achieved and continue to provide DRG with Annual Rehabilitation Reviews (ARRs) updating the progress of the rehabilitation. 

  • Conduct an on-site inspection with DRG Officers and Council once rehabilitation goals were achieved to affirm concurrence with the rehabilitation progress.

  • Obtain approval from council for the proposed/current final land uses.

  • Develop and submit to the DRG a Mine Lease Relinquishment Report summarising how the completion criteria have been met.

  • Concurrently apply for the rehabilitation bond to be returned to Fishers.

  • Approval of relinquishment report for the DRG and removal by the Titles Division of the mine lease.

Outcome   

The penultimate outcome of this project was the relinquishment of the mine lease and return of the security bond to the client.  

Liaison between council and the DRG was essential to ensure agreement on the final land uses and rehabilitation outcomes and compatibility with the land zoning of the area.