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Mines (Notice Of Abandonment) Regulations 1998

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 1 April 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to lay the regulations under Section 58 of the Environment Act 1995 for mine operators to notify the Environment Agency before abandoning a mine or part of a mine. [HL1351]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Baroness Hayman)

We are today laying before the House, the Mines (Notice of Abandonment) Regulations 1998. The regulations will come into force on 1 July 1998. On 4 March, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Angela Eagle) made the necessary commencement order to bring the remainder of Sections 58 and 60 of the Environment Act 1995 into force on 1 July. This period of notice will allow mine operators time to put in place the necessary steps to avoid a criminal liability for failing to notify the agency of a proposed abandonment.These regulations are being introduced following extensive consultation with interested parties. Copies of the responses received are available from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions libraries. The regulations will help the Environment Agency ("the Agency") avoid an unexpected minewater breakout resulting in serious contamination of controlled waters by enabling the agency to identify appropriate action to prevent pollution or treat minewaters when a mine or part of a mine is abandoned.The regulations require mine operators to notify the agency at least six months before abandoning a mine or part of a mine and to publish a notice in at least one local newspaper where the mine is situated. They set out the precise contents of both the notice to be given to the agency and the public notice in a local newspaper. The notice for the agency requires the operator to give an opinion as to the consequences of the proposed abandonment with relevant supporting information. Variations to the timing of the notice will apply where abandonment follows an emergency, and in some cases of insolvency. Where a phased programme of abandonment is planned, this could be notified to the agency and published in a local newspaper at one time, so as to reduce the burdens on the operator.My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Angela Eagle) has also brought into effect the remainder of Section 60 of the Environment Act 1995. This removes the statutory defence against prosecution from the owners and former operators of mines abandoned after 31 December 1999, where a polluting discharge is "permitted" to flow from an abandoned mine or part of a mine.