Guideline for Extractive Industry Projects

By on January 31, 2019

Preparation of Work Plans and Work Plan Variations: Guideline for extractive industry projects.

The above guideline for the extractive industry was released on 17th December 2018 and came into effect on the 1st January 2019. The guideline is to assist in the preparation of work plans and work plan variations. This guideline is a key outcome from the Resources Division, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (formerly DEDJTR) following on from the Commissioner for Better Regulation’s recommendations a year ago in the report “Getting the Groundwork Right: Better regulation of mines and quarries”. CMPA has been instrumental in its development, striving to achieve a fair and practicable outcome for Members since the introduction of risk based work plans on 8th December 2015. It has been a long journey with the guideline to be reviewed 6 months after its introduction date.

The guideline is available on the ERR website at the link below together with key aspects of the guideline.

Requirements to develop an extractive industry project

Before land can be developed for extractive industry, in most cases:

  • a work plan must be statutorily endorsed under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA);
  • a planning permit must be issued under the Planning and Environment Act 1987; and
  • the final work plan must be approved, and a work authority
  • granted, under the MRSDA.

Exceptions to these requirements are explained in Section 2 of this guideline.

Purpose of the guideline

The purpose of this guideline is to provide guidance on the preparation of work plans, work plan variations, and work plan notifications for extractive industry projects, to meet Victorian regulatory requirements.

Scope of the guideline

The scope of this guideline includes:

  • when a work plan or work plan variation is required (Section 2);
  • when, and with what information, it is recommended to engage with Earth Resources Regulation (ERR) (Section 3);
  • the content that needs to be in a work plan (Section 4);
  • the content that needs to be in a work plan variation (Section 5);
  • the steps to seeking approval of a work plan or work plan variation (Section 6); and
  • the notification (administrative update to a work plan) threshold
  • and process (Section 7).

The scope of this guideline does not include:

  • requirements for declared quarries;
  • preparation of mining or exploration work plans;
  • assessment of proposed changes to the boundary of an approved work authority;
  • preparation and assessment of rehabilitation bonds; and
  • preparation of work plans as a direct outcome of an
  • Environmental Effects Statement.

Work plan

A work plan is a document that needs to:

  • describe the nature and scale of the proposed extractive industry activities
  • identify and assess all risks the extractive industry may pose to the environment, to the public, or to nearby land, property or infrastructure (known as a ‘quarrying hazard’)
  • include a risk management plan that specifies the measures the proponent will use to eliminate or minimise identified risks and monitor performance
  • include a community engagement plan
  • include a rehabilitation plan.

A person who proposes to apply for a work authority to carry out an extractive industry must submit a work plan to ERR.

However, this requirement does not apply to:

  • Extractive industry that:
    • is on land that has an area not exceeding 5 hectares and a depth not exceeding 5 metres; and
    • does not require blasting or the clearing of native vegetation
  • Extractive industry exempted under section 5AA(1) of the
  • MRSDA.

If a work plan is not required, compliance with the Code of Practice for Small Quarries (the Code) will be required as a condition of the work authority.

Training for industry will be provided in early 2019 and note that an update to the Guideline is planned for mid-2019 following an evaluation process.

Work plan variation

A work plan variation is required when there is a change in work, or new work is proposed that triggers a work plan variation.

Work’ is any activity that is connected to or is incidental to the quarry activities permitted under the approved work authority and work plan.

A ‘change in work’ is work that is not consistent with an existing
work plan.

‘New work’ is work that is not approved under the existing work plan, or work authority.

Changes in work that trigger a work plan variation are those that involve:

  • a significant increase in risk;
  • a change to the community engagement plan as a result of new work or a change in work; or
  • a change to the rehabilitation plan as a result of new work or a
  • change in work.

A ‘significant increase in risk’ is where the residual risk (assessed under ERR’s risk matrix in Appendix A of this guideline) is categorized as greater than medium after factoring in the adequacy of existing controls and the proposed application of additional controls (where these additional controls are listed in guidance material published by ERR, such as those in Appendix
C of this guideline).

Work plan notification

If you have an approved work plan, you may consider making a notification to ERR for changes to work or new work which does not trigger a work plan variation. The instances that do not trigger a work plan variation include:

  • No new risks, and existing risks are categorized (after being assessed under ERR’s risk matrix in Appendix A) as low or medium
  • Changes to maps or drawings associated with a license/work
  • authority.

Examples of work that may not trigger a work plan variation and are therefore suitable for notification are provided in Appendix D. Section 7 of this guideline outlines the process and information required by ERR to accept a notification. When ERR accepts a notification, this will be recorded as an administrative update to the approved work plan. The details of the notification will be used by the inspectors when undertaking compliance activities and mitigate the risk that you are working outside the approved work plan.

However, if it is identified through compliance activities that the change in work has produced a significant increase in risk then you may be subject to enforcement action.

Modernisation of a work plan

There is no requirement to transition a work plan approved prior to 8th December 2015 to a modern one that meets the current requirements of the MRSDA and its Regulations.

However, modernising your work plan would simplify any future applications for variation and streamline the consultation process with referral authorities. In most cases, modernising your work plan is purely an administrative process (i.e. will not trigger a work plan variation) and will not have implications for existing planning approvals or referrals.

Consolidation of work plan and work plan variations

Many work authority holders have work plans with variations that have not been consolidated into a single work plan. ERR has an administrative process to simplify work plans by consolidating relevant work plan content and all variations into a single document. Consolidation involves taking a work plan which was approved before 8th December 2015 and identifying the current components that define the scope of the work authority.

This consolidation process will involve consultation with work authority holders as required.

Consolidation will:

  • not change any regulatory requirements on operators or cause existing rights to be amended or revoked;
  • not involve a statutory approval process or consultation with the relevant municipal council or referral authorities; and
  • incur no fee, where no variation is required.

Once accepted by ERR, the consolidated work plan forms a single document which incorporates all approved works that may be carried out on a site.

The guideline is far from satisfactory in a number of areas such as:

  • the pre-submission process requiring extensive information such as:
    • Predicted offsite discharges
    • Impact to native vegetation
    • Presence of waterways and potential waterway interception
    • Groundwater interception
    • Blasting.

(ERR have stated that this is a recommendation only and the initial proposal should be a summary of the available information relevant to the proposal. Site investigations specific to the proposal are not a requirement for the initial proposal.)

  • high sovereign risk processes such as:
    • modernisation of a work plan is an administrative process “in most cases” and
    • consolidation of work plans may require a work plan variation.

Training in the preparation of work plans and work plan variations will be provided by ERR in early 2019.

Please email any comments that you find on using the guideline over the next 6 months to

Note that CMPA has the following guidelines to assist Members in the preparation of their work plans/work plan variations:

Blast Management Plan Template
(Issue 2 April 2015, Issue 3 to be published in 2019);
Traffic Management
(Issue 1 April 2015, Issue 2 to be published in 2019);
Working Safely with Geotechnical Risk in Quarries
(Issue 1 February 2016);
Dust Management Guideline
(Issue 1 March 2016);
Noise Management Guideline
(Issue 1 October 2016).

About Gavin Moreira

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