The State Government has been urged to force mining companies to increase the rate of rehabilitation occurring on Hunter Valley mine sites.
It follows a Lock the Gate analysis of the annual reviews of four mines - Bengalla, Mt Pleasant, Muswellbrook and Mt Arthur - that found the overall area of active disturbance was 2.3 times the area of land under active rehabilitation.
The average area of active rehabilitation as a percentage of the total footprint was 27.5 per cent.
The most recent independent environmental audits for the four mines describe rehabilitation efforts compromised by inadequate human resources and systems.
Poor results from drone seeding, erosion and weed infestation were cited as evidence of a lack of personnel dedicated to rehabilitation management.
A NSW Minerals Council spokesman said all mines were required to meet strict rehabilitation obligations as set out in their conditions of approval and work to ensure disturbed land was progressively rehabilitated throughout the mining lifecycle.
"The regulator regularly monitors rehabilitation progress and mines are required to report annually," he said.
Mt Arthur and Mt Pleasant mines did not comment on the analysis.
A spokesman for Idemitsu Australia Resources, which owns Muswellbrook Coal, said the company regularly reviewed its rehabilitation plan to assess its progress and to ensure its environmental consent obligations can be enhanced and achieved.
"We are fully committed to achieving our approved rehabilitation plan and confirm that the Muswellbrook operation is currently in compliance with its regulatory obligations," he said.
New Hope, which owns the Bengalla mine, said site management worked closely with government regulators to ensure annual rehabilitation obligations were met.
"The local community can have absolute confidence in our commitment to rehabilitation of each site," he said.
"We provide an annual public report on the progress of rehabilitation on our sites and welcome any well-informed scrutiny that follows.
The NSW Resources Regulator is currently finalising rehabilitation reforms intended to "set clear, achievable and enforceable requirements for rehabilitation.
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Lock the Gate spokeswoman Georgina Woods taxpayers would be left with a hefty clean-up bill unless the NSW government enforced rehabilitation requirements.
"This data exposes the NSW Government's failure to ensure mining companies are cleaning up the mess they are creating in the Hunter," she said.
"It is especially concerning in the context of mounting uncertainty about future demand for coal and the risk of sudden mine closure without plans to keep people employed in land restoration.
"The pace of rehabilitation is woefully inadequate, and we fear the NSW taxpayer will be left to pick up the bill when these companies either go bust, or decide coal is no longer profitable and mothball their mines."
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