From 1 February 2015 health and safety in opal and gemstone mining in NSW will be regulated under the Work Health and Safety (Mines) Act 2013 and the supporting Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulation 2014.

The WHS (Mines) Act and its regulation apply to activities carried out for the purposes of extracting minerals, including opals. They apply in addition to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011. This consolidated work health and safety legislative framework is administered by the Division of Resources and Energy.

The WHS (Mines) laws don't apply to an activity carried out in relation to fossicking or the extraction of minerals on private land for the private and non-commercial use of the owner of the land.

What obligations apply to opal and gemstone miners?

All relevant provisions of the WHS (Mines) Act and WHS (Mines) Regulation apply except where specifically excluded for opal and gemstone mines. Key requirements include:

  • notifying the regulator of the mine operator
  • the mine operator to undergo safety training - Download safety training requirements fact sheet [PDF, 78.31 KB]
  • managing risks to health and safety associated with mining operations (clauses 9-12)
  • developing, implementing, maintaining and reviewing a safety management system
  • providing information to adjoining mine owners
  • emergency planning
  • obligations in relation to contractors (for example, if contractors provide drilling services)
  • information, training and instruction for workers
  • notifying the regulator of certain incidents (including notifiable incidents and high potential incidents)
  • keeping a mine record.

Guide: Opal and gemstone mining

The Opal and gemstone mining guide (PDF, 22089.49 KB) is designed to provide material focussing on practical guidance and best practice in opal and gemstone mines.

The guide deals with common health and safety issues at opal and gemstone mines but does not cover all hazards or risks that may arise at each mine. The health and safety laws require mine operators and others to consider all risks associated with working at opal or gemstone mines.

A hard copy of the guide is provided when you undertake the Opal Mining Safety Workshop.

What systems, plans and procedures are needed?

The safety management system must provide a comprehensive and integrated system for the management of all aspects of risks to health and safety relating to the mine's operation. This includes:

  • the nature, complexity and location of the mining operations, and
  • the risks associated with those operations.

Operators of opal or gemstone mines are not required to prepare principal mining hazard management plans and principal control plans. Instead, they must ensure that the safety management system for the mine sets out the systems, procedures, plans and other control measures that will be used to control any risks to health and safety at the mine associated with the following:

  • ground or strata failure
  • inundation or inrush of any substance
  • mine shafts and winding systems
  • roads or other vehicle operating areas
  • air quality or dust or other airborne contaminants
  • the mechanical aspects of plant or structures
  • electricity
  • ventilation
  • a hazard identified by the mine operator that has a reasonable potential to result in multiple deaths in a single incident or a series of recurring incidents.

Full list of exclusions for opal mines

Clause number


Specific matter


Safety management system

(c) the systems, procedures, plans and other control measures that will be used to control risks to health and safety associated with mining operations at the mine, including:

(i) the principal mining hazard management plans for the mine prepared under Division 2, and

(ii) the principal control plans for the mine, and

(iii) in the case of an underground mine—the ventilation control plan and ventilation plan prepared for the mine

under Subdivision 2 of Division 5, and

(iv) in the case of an underground coal mine—the matters required under Subdivision 3 of Division 5,

Part 2, Divisions 2 and 3

(Clauses 23-26)

Principal mining hazard management plans and principal control plans



Communication between outgoing and incoming shifts



Winding systems






Air quality—minimum standards for ventilated air



Ventilation system—further requirements

The mine operator must ensure that, at every point in areas of the mine where persons work or travel, the ventilation system for the mine provides at least one cubic metre of air per second.


Monitoring and testing of ventilation system



Modelling to take place before changes to ventilation system



Duty to prepare ventilation control plan



Review of ventilation control plan



Emergency planning

(ii) that a record of all persons who are underground at a mine (other than an opal mine) at any given time and each person's likely location is accurately maintained and is readily available in an emergency


Consultation in preparation of emergency plan






Survey plan of mine must be prepared



Duty to notify regulator of other matters



Quarterly reports


Schedule 3

Clause 4

Notification of High risk activities

Development of a new mine entry

Schedule 10

Statutory functions


Related links