This Bill primarily seeks to tidy up a range of issues in relation to the regulation of mineral tenements. In particular, the provisions regarding security deposits will make it easier to require mining operators to provide adequate bonds. Key changes are discussed below.
Requirements for applicants and tenement holders
- Requires applicants for exploration licences, retention licences, production licences and mining leases to demonstrate that they hold current public liability insurance;
- Removes the requirement for the Minister to be satisfied that sufficient information has been provided regarding environmental impacts associated with a mining lease (s.78A(1)(f)). The requirement for the Minister to provide information regarding the environmental impacts associated with exploration licences and production licences has been retained. The justification for this distinction is that the environmental impacts of mining activities are assessed and regulated under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994, whereas the environmental impacts of exploration and production are not subject to EMPCA so the Minister has a higher responsibility to assess environmental issues in those situations. There is some strength to the argument against duplicating any requirement for the Minister to assess environmental impacts for mining leases (as these will be assessed by the EPA). However, there is also an argument that the Minister must have information regarding those impacts when determining a lease application, in order to set an appropriate security deposit and to assess the risks and benefits to the State (as provided in s.78A(5)). A better approach to avoid duplication, while still allowing environmental impacts to be considered, would be to amend s.78(1)(f) to require the Minister to be satisfied that the applicant has an environmental authority for the mining operations granted under EMPCA.
- Inserts a new requirement for holders to submit a Final Report within 3 months of the expiry, revocation or suspension of the lease or licence. The report is to be made in accordance with published reporting guidelines.
- Rather than requiring quarterly returns to be submitted, these are required if a written request is received from the Director.
Access and compensation
- A mining lease authorises the leaseholder to “enter on or carry out mining operations” on private land if a compensation agreement is in place. The existing Act requires the compensation agreement to be “in force with the owner or occupier”, whereas the proposed amendments require a compensation agreement to be “in force in respect of the land”. This reflects a further change to s.145, which explicitly provides for a compensation agreement to bind future owners and occupiers.
- The Bill also amends the compensation agreement provisions to allow an agreement to be entered into with a licensee or lessee, or an applicant. This confirms that mining companies can commence negotiations for compensation agreements regarding access prior to the finalisation of a lease or licence application. Where no agreement can be reached, the mining company can apply to the Mining Tribunal for a determination, however such a determination cannot be made unless the Tribunal is satisfied that efforts have been made but the other party refuses to enter into an agreement. The existing Act continues to require the Minister to be satisfied that a compensation agreement has been entered into (or a determination made by the Tribunal) before granting a mining lease.
- The Bill also extends compensation rights on private land to parties holding a forestry right registered under the Forestry Rights Registration Act 1990. A forestry right is a right to the ownership a trees or carbon sequestration benefits (rather than a right to conduct forestry operations), but does not include any ownership of the underlying land. The amendments introduced by the Bill allow forestry rights holders who suffer damage due to loss of trees from mining or exploration activities to claim compensation.
- Amendments provide for security deposits to be varied at any time, having regard to the purpose of such security deposits. This will allow the Minister to require an increased bond if it becomes clear (for example, following an environmental assessment) that rehabilitation costs will be significantly higher than originally anticipated.
- The Bill adds a new provision allowing the security deposit to be forfeited if the leaseholder does not comply with reporting requirements.
- The Minister can also elect to refund all or part of a security bond at the end of a lease. While no criteria are specified, this could allow additional funds to be retained as a precautionary measure against residual impacts that may arise over time.
- The Bill provides for three reserves, currently not subject to the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 (and therefore not able to be mined), to become subject to the Act: Alma Tier Conservation Area, Dismal Swamp Regional Reserve and Lake Pieman Regional Reserve. The explanatory notes state that this change corrects an omission from the Forest Management Act 2013, which should have included those reserves in the list of reserves subject to the Mineral Resources Development Act. 1
- Allows royalties to be calculated on the basis of a nominated method, as an alternative to set rates
- Prospecting licences may be granted for up to 5 years (currently just 1 year)
- The Minister may alter the category of mineral to be mined under a lease, as part of a variation of conditions.
- Extends the exemption for mining rock, stone, gravel, sand and clay in State Forests to Future Potential Production Forest land, provided it is for use in constructing forest access roads
- Qualifies the exemption for quarrying in State forests to limit it to quarries operated by the Crown
- Clarifies that the Minister appoints the Director, and the Director appoints the Registrar and inspectors
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure this briefing note accurately reflects the changes proposed by the Bill, however it does not constitute legal advice and EDO Tasmania will not accept responsibility for any actions taken in reliance on the information presented.
1. The explanatory notes say that Mineral Resources Development (Application of Act) Order 1998 (S.R. 1998, No. 83) directed that the reserves be subject to the Act. In fact, the 1998 Order did not include the three listed reserves, however, they are listed in the Mineral Resources Development (Application of Act) Order (No. 3) 2002