MORE than $1bn in environmental bonds will be returned to resource industry employers operating in Western Australia, following a state-wide shift to the new Mining Rehabilitation Fund.

The Mining Rehabilitation Fund compiles contributions from miners based on a percentage of total closure liabilities and replaces the previous Environmental Unconditional Performance Bonds structure.

Since inception on 1 July 2013, the state government has already retired more than $20m in bonds, after 396 companies registered for the new fund before launch.

Mines and petroleum minister Bill Marmion said the fund was a boost for mining investment in Western Australia.

“The MRF frees up valuable funds at the start of projects and encourages ongoing rehabilitation,” Mr Marmion said.

“Funds are no longer tied to each company’s specific operation and are instead allocated to any in-need site across the state.”

Applications for rehabilitation funding can be submitted online and outcomes will be calculated on a per tenement basis dependent on the type of disturbance substantiated by the applicant.

Operators will be held accountable under regular audits, whereby non-submitted or false information will attract fines.

The voluntary opt-in period for the fund will run until 1 July 2014, after which it will be a mandatory contribution.

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