Addressing energy justice through progressive rehabilitation of critical minerals mines in New South Wales, Australia
The development of the critical minerals industry in Australia is expected to have extensive impacts on regional communities. The significant development required to exploit critical minerals provides an opportunity to embed energy justice. New South Wales (‘NSW’) has not considered energy justice in the Mining Amendment (Standard Conditions of Mining Leases—Rehabilitation) Regulation 2021. This thesis seeks to address the key research question of whether regulations with respect to progressive rehabilitation can afford energy justice to communities affected by critical minerals mines. Because rehabilitation often occurs late in the mine life cycle, initiatives and funding may be inadequate to ensure effective rehabilitation. Communities with proximity to critical minerals mines face challenging decisions and circumstances in respect of environmental, social, and economic health of their community, many of which are compounded by ineffectively rehabilitated land. Progressive rehabilitation is the process of undertaking rehabilitation prior to and throughout the life of the mine, rather than only at the end stages of closure and decommissioning. It may mitigate some of the challenging circumstances faced by local communities by providing ongoing reporting and monitoring of rehabilitation efforts. Progressive rehabilitation may increase opportunities for community participation throughout the life cycle of the mine, while supporting the provision of energy justice for local communities. This thesis poses energy justice as a tool to guide policymakers in developing progressive rehabilitation regulations, and thus support a just transition to a low carbon economy.