Mining Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

What is the purpose of the Mining Legislation Amendment Bill 2015?

The Mining Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 consolidates all the environmental management provisions of the Mining Act 1978 into one new Part.

It modernises and simplifies environmental regulation of the mining industry by reducing the administrative burden on industry – allowing for better service delivery and enhanced effectiveness of government.

The amendments aim to achieve better outcomes for industry, government and the environment.

How will regulatory burden be reduced?

For most proponents there will no longer be a need to apply for a separate native vegetation clearing permit. This will make it simpler to prepare a Mining Proposal and greatly reduce lead time.

Many of the environmental conditions currently on tenements and requiring annual reporting will be put into regulation. This means tenement holders will no longer be required to report annually on these conditions.

A new low impact notification system will be introduced. This will mean approval will no longer be required for activities classified as low impact.

Smart forms being introduced for Programmes of Work, Mining Proposals and Low Impact Notifications will be less burdensome to complete than current systems.

Development of online lodgement will allow proponents to submit spatial files of their project areas, streamlining the assessment process and eliminating the need for accompanying maps and data entry.

What effect will the low impact authorised activity framework have?

The department recognises that small areas of disturbance can be managed with little environmental impact, and that many of these activities do not need an individual environmental assessment.

Many activities associated with prospecting and minor changes to existing projects will potentially be considered low impact.

The department is proposing to make such activities exempt from the requirement for individual assessment and instead they will only require a notification process before the activity can commence.

Why do proponents need to notify the department before undertaking a low impact activity and then also on completion of the activity?

The department needs to verify that each activity meets the low impact criteria.

Notification of completion of the activity allows the department to cross-check that the disturbance either has been captured through the MRF, or that it has been rehabilitated.

Inspections will also be scheduled to low impact activity sites to ensure tenement holders are meeting their obligations.

What will the definition of ‘low impact’ be?

Low impact activities criteria are currently being developed in consultation with stakeholders.

The definition will be included in the Mining Regulations.

Why are the powers of environment inspectors being increased?

The passage of the Mining Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 will not, in itself, provide any additional powers to inspectors. The Bill will only allow that additional powers of inspectors may be prescribed in regulations.

The intent of the subsequent regulations is that inspectors will be able to gather evidence and information to investigate potential illegal exploration and mining.

Strengthening the powers of inspectors will give the department the ability to deal more effectively with illegal mining activities.

These powers are required to ensure that any harmful effects on the environment may be dealt with in a swift and timely fashion.

Will prospecting still be allowed on mining leases?

Yes. The Bill does not alter the ability to prospect on a mining lease. The Programme of Work – Prospecting (POW-P) will remain unchanged.

Are miners’ rights changing?

No. The Bill does not alter the obligations on holders of a miner’s right to prevent damage when going through Crown land.

What is the intention behind the new requirement for tenement holders to have an environmental management system?

The proposed legislative changes will move regulation of the mineral exploration and mining industry from a prescriptive process to being risk-based and outcomes-focussed.

Tenement holders will be required to demonstrate they can manage their operations in this way.

What sort of environmental management system will be required?

The proposed legislation is not prescriptive in terms of the type of environmental management system that must be used, other than requiring that it covers the procedures and practices relating to the assessment of risk and the implementation of actions to minimise or avoid environmental harm.

For small operations, particularly where low impact activities will take place, the environmental management system may be a simple paper-based system, such as a one or two page table listing potential impacts and controls to manage them.

Larger operations will likely require a computer-based system.