The NSW Minerals Council claims the bill will secure the future of the $200 million NSW exploration industry, without removing any landowner rights or environmental protections.
The Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment (Land Access) Bill 2010 deals with the very specific, unintended consequences of the recent Supreme Court decision on land access which cast a cloud over current and future exploration in the state, NSW Minerals Council deputy chief executive Sue-Ern Tan said.
“This bill will make it easier for landowners and explorers to come to an agreement on access,” she said.
“Minerals explorers and landowners have been working together in good faith in New South Wales for many years and we intend to continue that positive relationship. But the current situation is unworkable.
“Right now anyone with a financial interest in a property must be legally bound by a single negotiated agreement, making a landowner’s say in what happens on their property no more important than that of Telstra or Country Energy. It’s a complicated, bureaucratic mess for everyone.”
The bill does not give explorers access to land without valid arrangements with all relevant landholders, nor does it give explorers any more rights concerning land that is subject to an exploration licence.
In addition, it does not change the environmental legislation for exploration and does not mean landowners will be responsible for informing parties with a secondary interest (such as utilities with an easement over a property) about access arrangements.
“This bill will lead to a simpler process for all parties, reflecting the practice that has been accepted by landowners, explorers and the courts for decades,” Tan said.
“These issues are complex, but the current situation is creating a climate of uncertainty for the exploration industry and the 4000 people it employs across the state, as well as the 35,000 people working in the mining industry.
“We’re calling on the Legislative Council to pass this bill and provide the industry with the certainty it needs to keep the state’s investment pipeline flowing.”
Tan said that one company had already been forced to stop $3 million worth of exploration and lay off 12 people. Instead of having 220 agreements for exploration, it would now be forced to negotiate some 700 access agreements to include all title holders found so far within the exploration licence area.