The 2016 Mining Act Review
In September 2016, the Department of State Development (DSD), Mineral Resources Division commenced its review of the Mining Act 1971 as part of the ‘Leading Practice Mining Acts Review’.
Member surveys by Grain Producers SA have shown that more than 70 percent of growers are concerned about the impacts of alternate land uses, such as mining, on the grains industry as a whole.
From the start of the review, GPSA has sought a fairer and more open and transparent system for farmers that includes a review of the process by which mining exploration is allowed, the process for granting exemptions, the rights of the landowners, the consultation process and compensation process not only for those immediately affected but also the near neighbours.
GPSA has been vocal in its views that the review should be conducted by an independent panel rather than DSD, which is both the SA mining industry’s regulator and promoter, or at the very least have an independent arbitrator. GPSA also worked to have the original deadline for the consultation period extended beyond December 2016 - during one the SA’s largest grain harvests - and was successful in the new closing date of February 2017 and then again out to March 2017. GPSA wrote to Premier Jay Weatherill highlighting these issues and outlined further impacts of mining on the grains industry, as outlined in GPSA’s mining policy.
GPSA conducted a series of consultation meetings in January and February 2017 with Livestock SA in which producer feedback was sought on the impacts of mining on their property, community and the wider industry. More than 200 growers and community members attended these meetings, which were held at Wudinna, Cummins, Maitland and Murray Bridge. A summary of issues raised was collated and made available to attendees.
GPSA used the feedback from these meetings to develop its own submission to the review which sought the following changes to the Mining Act 1971:
- Landholders should have the right of veto, so new exploration or a mine cannot proceed without the approval of the landowner.
- All court costs and other costs incurred by the landowner should be met by the miner and the Environment, Resources and Development (ERD) Court should remain the preferred court of dispute for cases between mining companies and landowners.
- Mining companies should pay an uplift above market rates of at least three times the market value for the property. Landowners of adjacent land who believe their properties will be devalued should also be compensated.
- A proportion of royalties over and above the state’s allocation should be given back to the community based on the economic value of the land. This would recognise the productive capacity of the land that will be lost and acknowledge the investment made by the community in establishing and maintaining infrastructure.
- There should be enforceable timeframes for mines to be up and running with no extensions, giving landowners certainty to develop or exit their businesses.
- The required Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation (PEPR) should be broadened to include a social, environmental and economic assessment which considers the impacts on the business and community.
- The compliance powers of government should be increased to compel mining companies to meet their obligations, funded by the miners on a cost-recovery basis.
A number of GPSA’s members developed their own submissions to the review, detailing their personal concerns towards the Mining Acts. Over 55 percent of the submissions received by DSD came from landowners or farming representative bodies.
Since the period for submissions ended in March 2017, the process has been slow. The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) hosted two workshops with key stakeholder groups from the mining and primary industries sectors on August 28 and September 7, 2017, which GPSA attended to represent the views of members.
GPSA has requested, but not yet received, the minutes from both workshops. GPSA has also stated that it needs to consult with its Board and members and will not be endorsing any recommendations from DSD or DPC without doing so.
On September 8, DSD released its Fast Facts – Benefits for All document, which detailed 82 recommendations for the Mining Act legislation. DPC is seeking response/endorsement of the recommendations produced in the Benefits for All paper and further engagement on further consultation with members and other stakeholders.
On September 19, GPSA met with other key environmental stakeholders to discuss issues of mutual concern with the process to date and the 82 recommendations with the aim of preparing a joint response to DPC covering our key mutual concerns.
At a GPSA Board meeting on September 21, DPC presented on progress to date and GPSA raised its key issues of concern with the process and the draft recommendations.
On September 26, GPSA provided a response to DPC on the 82 recommendations outlining its concerns with the process, the fact that it is unable to endorse the recommendations without the GPSA Board and members seeing the draft legislation first and that its considers that the legislation should be dealt with as one - not split, as currently proposed.
On September 27, GPSA was a co-signatory to a letter with Primary Producers SA, Livestock SA, the Environmental Defenders Office, The Conservation Council of SA and the Wilderness Society, which again outlined landowner issues and the issues of the environmental groups that still need addressing.
GPSA has encouraged DPC to run updates on the Mining Act Review process for landowners throughout rural SA. These 'drop in' sessions were coordinated by DPC in regional SA throughout October and November 2017.
GPSA has and continues to outlay a lot of time, money and resources into achieving the best outcomes for its members as part of the Mining Act Review.
Updated October 2017
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