Review of Work Plan Guidelines

By on January 28, 2020

This article has been compiled in part by Dr Elizabeth Gibson from the presentation given by Dr Michelle Delaire, Director of the Regulatory Transition Taskforce, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) on 27 November 2019 in Kilmore to CMPA Members.

The following is a summary of the presentation by Michelle.

Context to the development of the guidelines


In 2017, the Commissioner for Better Regulation was commissioned to identify practical steps to improve the regulation of mines and extractive industries in Victoria, based on industry concerns regarding significant delays and uncertainty in regulatory approval processes.

The report, Getting the Groundwork Right: Better regulation of mines and extractive industries, identified a series of actions to address these needs. Those actions, along with other recent initiatives implemented by Earth Resources Regulation (ERR) include:

  • Establishment of the notification pathway through the Statement of Operating Change in August 2018 including an alternative streamlined approval process which enables licensees or authority holders to utilise an alternative process to the legislative work plan variation approval process for new or changes to work that do not constitute a significant increase in risk;
  • Establishment of Work Plan Guidelines for Extractives (December 2018);
  • Remake of the Extractive Industries Regulations, (January 2020).

The Preparation of Work Plans and Work Plan Variations – Guideline for
Extractive Industry Projects (the Guideline) was released in December 2018 with a commitment to conduct a 6 month review of the Guideline in August 2019.

https://earthresources.vic.gov.au/legislation-and-regulations/guidelines-and-codes-of-practice/extractive-industry-work-plan-guideline

DJPR engaged PriceWaterhouseCoopers Consulting Australia (PwC) to undertake a review of the Work Plan Guidelines. This review involved:

  • Review of variation and notification material submitted by duty holders in 2018/19 (26 notifications, 8 variations);
  • Review of data extracted from RRAM;
  • Engagement with ERR staff;
  • A survey of 53 respondents (5 of which had completed a variation, 13 of which had prepared a notification);
  • Workshops with exploration, minerals and extractives industry, co-regulators and with ERR.


The workshop for the Extractive Industry was held on 15 August 2019 in Melbourne that was attended by several CMPA Members and Dr Elizabeth Gibson. There appeared to be some competition as to who had the most identified risks which ranged from 100 – 500. This was an unintentional result of the Guideline leading to the number of identified risks exceeding even ERR’s expectations. It was also pointed out by one of the attendees that the introduction of risk based work plans in South Australia has led to a sharp decline in small to medium sized quarries. There were requests for identification of reasonable risks where quarrying is undertaken on a flood plain. Questions were also posed as to the breakdown of variations and notifications approved: whether mine or quarry and size.

Since the introduction of the notification pathway, there have been 26 acknowledged notifications and 8 approved work plan variations, note approximately half of the numbers (which includes mines as well as the extractive industries) in the chart below apply to the extractive industries.

*Only the variations and notifications that were submitted and approved/acknowledged within the same financial year are considered

Positive Impacts of the Notification Process:

  • Notifications enable industry to implement proposed changes more quickly. Industry report that the introduction of notifications have enabled them to implement changes that otherwise would have been subject to a non-statutory variation process. In some cases this has enabled them to bring forward production by up to 12 months. Duty holders reported benefits in reduced delay and opportunity costs;
  • Notifications provide the duty holder with the opportunity to make changes more frequently. The notification pathway provides an opportunity for duty holders to put through changes until in a position to submit a variation;
  • Notification pathway decreases the costs associated with external consultants. Duty holders report that the notification pathway has enabled them to complete notifications internally, rather than relying on external consultants and their associated costs;
  • Notification pathway and updated processes cultivate trust between the duty holder and ERR. Overall, the duty holders were appreciative of the introduction of the notification pathway, reporting that it has built their confidence that ERR is seeking different ways to better assist them;
  • The risk assessment step requires the most effort of duty holders in both the notification and variation pathways. According to industry feedback, the risk assessment steps require the most effort on the part of the duty holders as compared to other steps in both processes. This is particularly the case among those who have not moved to risk based work plans.;
  • Notification pathway has saved 120 days in elapsed time, 6 days in duty holder effort and $58K in costs (based on 13 notifications and 5 variations – includes mines).

The dot points above appear skewed favorably towards the notification process. It should be noted that notification of ERR by work authority holders of changes is not new. For example, there used to be a requirement to notify ERR of a change in quarry manager (1966).

ERR Recommendations

Short-term enhancement opportunities (now to mid 2020)

  • Consider renaming ‘notification’ to ‘administrative update through notification’;
  • Include flowcharts of the expected steps for notifications and variations;
  • Provide submission templates for notifications;
  • Outline the key co-regulators that should be engaged;
  • Review blast management documentation requirements;
  • Enhance risk assessment requirements to encourage consistent interpretation by duty holders;
  • Provide examples of notifications
  • Review consequence and likelihood descriptors with co-regulators;
  • Consider if risk treatment and risk register documentation could be consolidated.

Medium-term actions (mid 2020 – 2022)

  • Encourage duty holders to transition to risk based work plans;
  • Undertake a targeted compliance assessment of sites with notifications to assess pathway effectiveness;
  • Consider introducing a true notification process for low-risk administrative updates whereby instead of a complete assessment by ERR the duty holder would only be required to notify ERR of these changes;
  • Undertake a detailed review of the variation pathway including how the native vegetation and planning requirements could be optimized;
  • Continue engagement with industry to keep them updated with developments and to obtain feedback on existing changes;
  • Revise the Guidelines to reflect enhancements identified in the review as well as upcoming regulatory changes;
  • Revise ERR’s Memoranda of Understanding with co-regulators;
  • Implement any identified legislative and regulatory changes from the variation pathway review.

Long-term actions (2022 and beyond)

  • Develop best practice standards with peak bodies to provide industry specific advice to duty holders;
  • Consider circumstances where overlapping administrative updates require work plan updates so that operational information is current;
  • Replace RRAM with Resource Management System Victoria to provided workflow, customer interface and compliance functionality to enhance its use as a tool for regulation.
  • An article for the next issue of Sand & Stone on the notification process with case studies is currently being prepared by ERR.

Please contact Dr Elizabeth Gibson (elizabeth.gibson@cmpavic.asn.au) if you have any further comments on the Guidelines or on the recommendations for change.

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