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Minister Announces Mining Act Review

4 minutes read time

The Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy has announced a comprehensive review of South Australia’s Mining Act, Mines and Works Inspection Act and Opal Mining Act with a view to introducing amendments into the State Parliament in 2017.

In a news release issued on Tuesday 27 September 2016 Tom Koutsantonis, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy announced a far reaching and comprehensive review of the Mining Act, the Mines and Works Inspection Act and the Opal Mining Act.

In making the release the Minister stated:

“South Australia already has an international reputation for providing a transparent, thorough and rigorous assessment process for the mining industry. Our expert regulators ensure community and environment safety while at the same time providing certainty to investors and landowners. But policy renewal is always important, and by doing this now South Australia will be in the box seat to realise the enormous benefits that will inevitably flow from the next upswing in the commodities cycle. Listening to the community through comprehensive consultation is a basic requirement in ensuring any changes to our mining laws reflect what is important to all stakeholders”.

Scope of review

The news release describes the review as a “Leading Practice Review” of the Mining Act, the Mines and Works Inspection Act and the Opal Mining Act to “allow for the modernisation of these laws to ensure South Australia stays a leader in adopting modern and efficient practices for exploration and mining activities”.

The review thus appears to be a comprehensive one, with all provisions of the three statutes “on the table” including, as we understand the position, possible amendments to Part 9B of the Mining Act and Part 7 of the Opal Mining Act.

Objectives of Review

The News Release states that the reform of the three statutes will seek to:

  • bring forward the economic and social benefits of the State’s mineral wealth for citizens, landowners, traditional owners, mining communities, miners and mining service providers;
  • grow South Australian businesses and drive increased investment and employment by abolishing obsolete and cumbersome legislative processes in accordance with the Premier’s Simplify red-tape reduction process;
  • provide a more flexible ‘One-Stop Shop’ approach for mining project assessments and approval processes, to promote more efficient and innovative exploration and mining operations in South Australia;
  • establish South Australia as a leading e-business practitioner in the world’s rapidly evolving digital economy in line with the Premier’s Digital by Default Declaration;
  • increase the efficiency of South Australia’s leading-practice engagement, negotiation and court processes s that there is greater transparency, and so landowners and industry have greater certainty, in accordance with the Better Together Principles;
  • implement flexible financial assurance models that maintain community confidence in mine closure and environmental rehabilitation performance and outcomes;
  • provide clear pathways for changes to operations during the life of a mine so that operators can adopt new technologies and adapt to changing market conditions and community expectations; and
  • reinforce the existing leading practice environmental protections offered under the Mining Act 1971.

The news release appropriately contemplates a wide ranging consultation process to ensure that the first objective is achieved and that the changes to the statutes have broad community acceptance.

The objectives relating to abolishing obsolete and cumbersome legislative processes, a more flexible ‘One-Stop Shop’ approach and e-business are all to be welcomed so long as they achieve a more “real world” objective risk assessment regulatory process, whilst maintaining the leading practice environmental (and other) protections also referred to in the objectives.

Similarly, the objective of achieving greater certainty in engagement, negotiation and court processes for landowners and industry is positive.  However, judgement in this regard will need to be reserved to assess whether this objective is ultimately achieved, particularly in relation to exempt land.

In general terms, the review of the Mines and Works Inspection Act and the Opal Mining Act and, particularly, the Mining Act is an extremely positive development.  The Mining Act dates back to 1971, the Mines and Works Inspections Act to 1920 and the Opal Mining Act to 1995.  Although each statute has been amended at various times since being enacted, the time is ripe for a general overhaul of these mining laws.  Coming as it does during a resource industry sector downturn; the Minister’s announcement is timely. It provides the potential for thoroughly modern mining legislation to be in place when the industry cycle next turns, to the benefit of the State and the community at large.

If you intend to make a submission in respect of the proposed amendments we would welcome the opportunity to assist you.

This Alert is intended as an alert only. It does not purport to be comprehensive advice. Readers should seek professional advice before acting in relation to these matters.