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New safety regulations for all mines

Tuesday 27 Nov 2012 2:16 p.m.

The regulator must be satisfied health and safety requirements have been met before mining begins (file)

The regulator must be satisfied health and safety requirements have been met before mining begins (file)

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Oil, gas and mineral miners will face new health and safety standards regulating their activities following the royal commission report into the Pike River Coal mine disaster.

The report recommended the establishment of a new Crown entity focused on health and safety - an idea the Government says needs further investigation.

However, today, the Government announced changes to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill that would require the minister of energy and resources to consult with an "appropriate health and safety regulator" before issuing exploration or mining permits for "Tier 1" activities.

Tier 1 includes mining for petroleum, gold, silver, coal, ironsands and metallic minerals, where royalties would exceed a specific royalties threshold.

However, the final decision will remain with the minister, who only has to take the regulator's views "into account", Energy Minister Phil Heatley announced.

The regulator must also be satisfied that health and safety requirements have been met before mining begins.

Another change to the bill, which is before Parliament's commerce select committee, will include health and safety considerations in the definition of "good industry practice".

Acting Labour Minister Chris Finlayson also announced new regulations, which will come into effect next June, to strengthen management of oil wells, including managing hazards that could cause a major accident, and minimising the likelihood of an uncontrolled release of oil and gas.

The changes will require operators of onshore and offshore mining operations to prepare and submit safety cases to the regulator for assessment before starting any new operations.

However, operators of smaller and lower risk operations will only have to prepare an "overview" of their health and safety measures, rather than a full safety case.

Operators will also have to report near misses to the Department of Labour, with the data to help inform future regulations.

Mr Finlayson says while the royal commission was primarily concerned with underground mining, it was "very clear that New Zealand's regulatory standards in hazardous industries were not up to world standard".


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