Rehabilitation of Victoria’s coal mines could create hundreds of new jobs over the next 20 years, according to a report.

Mine rehabilitation works in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley could create hundreds of long-term skilled and unskilled jobs and prevent another Hazelwood-type disaster, according to a report.

Environment Victoria and residents group Voices of the Valley say the Latrobe Valley could benefit from new jobs and improved public health and safety if accelerated rehabilitation works are completed at coalmines in the region.

The $100 million Hazelwood mine fire that burned for 45 days in February and March was foreseeable and could have been mitigated, if not prevented, if mine operator GDF Suez had taken better precautions, an independent inquiry found.

The inquiry report set out 18 recommendations for the Victorian government and GDF Suez to prevent another similar event but none involved rehabilitation.

Environment Victoria and Voices of the Valley are now campaigning for rehabilitation as a means of preventing another Hazelwood disaster, releasing their report in Morwell on Thursday.

“Rehabilitation of old exposed coal faces could have prevented the terrible health effects suffered by the Latrobe Valley community,” Environment Victoria’s climate campaign manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said.

“The only section of the northern batters of Hazelwood that didn’t burn was the area that had been rehabilitated.”

He said the labour intensive nature of the rehabilitation work meant it could create up to 450 jobs a year over two decades, with economic benefits of $1.2 billion.

Currently the low value of rehabilitation bonds, at $15 million, compared to the actual cost of rehabilitation is holding mine operators back, while the government is not exerting regulatory pressure to ensure rehabilitation works are happening, the report says.

“To encourage the acceleration of rehabilitation, the government should ensure that rehabilitation bonds are equivalent to the actual cost of rehabilitation,” Dr Aberle said.

He said Victorian coal mines paid very low coal royalty rates compared to NSW and Queensland.

“Increasing that rate would force extra funds to be put aside for rehabilitation works, with that money able to be recouped by the mine operators if works are carried out,” he said.

A GDF Suez spokesman has previously said rehabilitation works are complex and progressive but are underway under a plan approved by the state regulator.