This section summarises the guidelines used by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) for Mining Leases Restricted to Minerals Derived from Brine.
The Western Australian Government has committed to assisting the development of the potash and minerals in brine industry in Western Australia.
Potash and other minerals derived from brine projects are generally located on salt lakes in remote regions of Western Australia. The majority of the proposed projects require mining tenure over expansive areas that are 10 to 20 times larger than areas under tenure for the largest conventional mining operations in Western Australia.
Section 110 of the Mining Act 1978 (Mining Act) gives discretionary power to the Minister to grant a mining lease restricted to mining of specific minerals, having regard to the locality of the land and if it is in the public interest.
On 24 May 2019, the Mining Regulations 1981 were amended to introduce a concessionary rental rate for mining leases restricted to minerals derived from brine. The concessionary rate is directed at supporting the establishment of the potash mining industry in Western Australia by reducing the fixed cost imposed by government to a level more comparable with other conventional mining operations.
The restricted mining lease and concessionary rent rate is only available to proponents seeking to extract minerals derived from brine, which may include potash, halite, gypsum, iodine, lithium, magnesium, bromine, and/or other materials. The brine may be groundwater, surface water or seawater.
Brine mining differs from solution mining or in-situ leaching in that those methods inject water or chemicals to dissolve materials that are in a solid state. In brine mining, the minerals are already naturally dissolved.
Proponents should make a concise written submission summarising the key points as to why the application should be restricted to minerals derived from brine, having regard to the locality of the land and if it is in the public interest.
Relevant information should include, but not be limited to the:
expected economic and social benefits that advance the interest or welfare of the public, society and the State of Western Australia;
impacts and relationships with local and regional communities and businesses; and
impacts and relationships with other resource developments and projects located in the vicinity.
Pertinent to the public interest test is the engagement the applicant has with other interested parties including local government, native title parties and other land users such as affected pastoralists.
The submission should be made to DMIRS at the time the mining lease application is lodged or as soon as reasonably practicable after lodgement if the submission does not accompany the application.
Applicants may be requested to provide additional information to support the submission.
For the mining lease application to be valid it must be accompanied by, among other items, the first year’s rent at the standard mining lease rate, as prescribed at item 8, Schedule 2 to the Mining Regulations. This is because the Minister’s discretion to restrict the mining lease to minerals dissolved in brine with the concessionary rent rate can only be exercised later at the time the mining lease is granted.
As at June 2019, DMIRS has a policy that limits the payment by credit card to a maximum of $99,999.00. This means that any application for a mining lease that is greater than 5,300 hectares cannot be lodged through the department’s online application portal and must be lodged at a Mining Registrar’s office (including Perth) and accompanied by a bank cheque for the total amount of the application fee and first year’s rent.
A refund of the calculated difference in rent between the standard mining lease rent rate (item 8) and the concessionary rent rate (item 9), as prescribed in Schedule 2 to the Mining Regulations, will be made soon after the mining lease restricted to minerals dissolved in brine is granted.
Holders of a mining lease restricted to minerals derived from brine remain the subject of the statutory covenants and conditions. This includes the standard expenditure requirements or otherwise holders can apply for an exemption under section 102 of the Mining Act.
As the Minister exercises the discretion under section 110 of the Mining Act at the time of grant, the restricted mineral provisions cannot be retrospectively applied to existing mining leases.