New mining bills introduced to the NT Parliament this week would not prevent disasters like the McArthur River or Redbank mines.
While recognising the need to reform the Territory’s broken mining laws, EDO has identified significant flaws in the new laws in the areas of mandatory environmental protections and management requirements, and the erosion of community rights.
KEY DEFICIENCIES OF THE PROPOSED LAWS
- Lack of mandatory requirements for mine closure planning
- Inadequate framework for mine site rehabilitation
- Lax rules on mining security bonds
- Removal of 3rd party review rights compared with draft bills
- Lack of community consultation rights for some licence applications and deficient consultation times where available
EDO NT Managing Lawyer Elanor Fenge said: “The mining bills are a step in the right direction. They will improve transparency and make the Environment Department mostly responsible for regulating these developments.
“However, we are very concerned the bills lack effective community rights and will not prevent more environmental disasters like those we have seen at McArthur River Mine and Redbank.
“There have been a few minor improvements since the draft bills were put out for public comment in August, but they fail to address significant concerns around requirements for mine closure planning, rehabilitation and mining security bonds.
“These minor gains are also overshadowed by some significant backward steps. For example, the rights of community members to ask the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review decisions on their merits has been removed entirely.
“The bills also significantly reduce the time the public will have to comment on licence applications, in some cases, which is a retrograde step. Consultation rights are already not available in all instances.
“Mining projects are complex, so the public needs adequate time to review proposals and provide considered feedback.
“These reforms are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to legislate best practice environmental regulation and community rights for the Territory.
“However, the reform process has been rushed and key issues have not been fully addressed in the bills, which is why we are urging all MPs to carefully consider these bills and seek amendments to strengthen protections and rights for the environment and communities.”
The Northern Territory government is proposing to completely overhaul how the law deals with the environmental impacts of mining in the Territory. There are currently two Bills before the Territory Parliament, the Environment Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 (EP Mining Bill) and the Legacy Mines Remediation Bill 2023 (Legacy Mines Bill). EDO submissions on Exposure Drafts for the Bills are available here.
Briefing Note: Mining regulation proposed for complete overhaul in the Territory, EDO, November 2023
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