Streamlining Mining Amendment Bill
The Government has proposed a Streamlining (Mining Amendment) Bill 2021 to improve efficiencies in the approval process in an effort to stimulate the economy post COVID. But typical of such government amendments, it will have limited effect because the amendments function in isolation to other legislation that affects the mining industry.
DMIRs released the ‘Consultation Draft of the Streamlining (Mining Amendment) Bill 2021’ for an eight-week public comment on 3 May 2021. The submissions by the industry were collated and released on the 17th September 2021 along with the proposed Mining Amendment Bill 2021 (2021 Bill).
The 2021 Bill inserts a new section into the Mining Act 1978; Part IV AA – Conditions and Approvals, which consolidates quite a few other environmental sections of the Mining Act into this Part.
One of the Government’s intentions of the 2021 Bill is to improve the efficiency of explorers being granted a Programme of Work (PoW) so it can be automatically granted without review by DMIRS if the proposed exploration is low impact and will be classed as Eligible Mining Activities (EMA).
The EMAs are prescribed if the activity:
- uses machinery to disturb the surfaces of the land for the purposes of, or in preparation for, mining; and
- the activity can be carried out with minimal disturbance (the current low-impact notification framework) to the surface of the land.
If the EMAs pose low risk to the environment they will be authorised via an automated assessment rather than assessment by an Environmental Officer of DMIRS.
The meaning of low impact is yet to be defined in the Mining Regulations 1981, or to be released by DMIRS. DMIRS stated that they envisioned that this would require another round of consultation with the industry.
The CME made the comment in their Submission:
“Without this clarity, or even a basic indication of where thresholds are likely to be, it is not possible to reasonably discern the regulatory streamlining effectiveness of the proposal and potential benefits to both DMIRS and industry”.
Currently, low impact is defined under Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004 (Clearing Regs) and any amendments must be in compliance with this legislation or the legislation must be amended. However, the government has not indicated a plan to alter the legislation under the Clearing Regs.
Since there is a high possibility of no change, we can expect the future EMA’s for PoWs to be similar for those current activities that are not considered clearing, which are:
- Clearing for ‘low impact’ activities: temporary tracks and groundwater drilling;
- Clearing for camp sites and storage with a total area of 2 hectares per tenement;
- Driving vehicles off road;
- 4m wide raised blade clearing (with 100m distance between tracks);
- Scrape and detect areas of 2 hectares per tenement;
- 10 hectares per financial year per authority (eg a single exploration licence) area for clearing regulated under the Mining Act 1978; and
- Construction of a water bore and taking water under a licence granted under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914.
So, unless your PoW contains drilling on a current track, wheat field or the middle of a lake the EMA is unlikely to occur and expedite the PoW process. Therefore, one can expect that any exploration in any vegetated area in WA will not be classed as an EMA.
DMIRS intention is that during the transition period of the 2021 Bill all current PoWs will continue to be approved as they currently stand.
Mine Closure Plans
The other section of the 2021 Bill is the introduction of a Mining Closure Plan to accompany the Mining Proposal when a mining lease application is made. This will be now called “Mining Development and Closure Proposal” (MDCP).
Transitional Provisions for Mining Lease Application
Those mining lease applications lodged prior to 2021 Bill introduction and awaiting approval by DMIRS will need a MDCP.
“This will remove the current duplication in requirements that exist for a Mining Proposal and Mine Closure Plan (for example proposal description, baseline data and separate risk assessments and environmental outcomes tables)”
Any approved mining lease applications will not need a Closure Plan, other than pursuant to the 6-year transition period of the current Mining Proposals. After 6 year transition period, mining operations will need to be assessed and approved through the MDCP (I doubt that any mining lease is still in this transition period).
All Mine Closure Plans will continue to be approved as they currently stand, and will be transitioned to the new Part IVAA of the Mining Act as the review of the Mine Closure Plan is undertaken per the date set out in tenement conditions.
We understand the 2021 Bill’s purpose was to stimulate post COVID recovery of the resources sector by streamlining approvals in the resources sector.
However, the proposed 2021 Bill is just shuffling deck chairs around with limited effect as neither the PoW process or the MDCP makes any difference to streamlining processes for the industry. Though it may provide efficiencies for the government departments.
It shows the government’s complete disengagement with the mining industry (as the CME claims) due to the lack of consultation with the industry.
Wish to learn more about the amendments to the Mining Act? Attend LandTrack Systems’:
Practical Tenement Management Course – 17th and 18th Feb 2022
Other courses scheduled for this year:
Understanding Tenement Expenditure – 25th and 26th Nov 2021
Navigating Exploration Agreements – 18th and 19th Nov 2021