05/09/2017 - 15:12

Forrest case sparks mining lease legitimacy fears

05/09/2017 - 15:12

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The state government is considering amendments to the Mining Act in the wake of the High Court’s recent ruling that kept sand mining off Andrew Forrest's family pastoral station in the Pilbara but cast into question the legitimacy of other granted mining leases since 2006.

Bill Johnston says up to 15 per cent of mining lease applications lodged since 2006 may be technically deficient. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government is considering amendments to the Mining Act in the wake of the High Court’s recent ruling that kept sand mining off Andrew Forrest's family pastoral station in the Pilbara but cast into question the legitimacy of other granted mining leases since 2006.

Mr Forrest last month successfully fended off Yarri Mining from applying for sand mining tenements at Minderoo Station, with the High Court overturning a previous decision by the Supreme Court of Western Australia to grant a mining lease.

In its determination, the High Court ruled that when a mining lease application is lodged it must also be accompanied by either a mineralisation report or a mining proposal.

In Yarri’s case, the company lodged a mineralisation report after a mining lease application, but before the application was considered.

The High Court decision has since created uncertainty around existing mining tenements that may have been granted under a similar process since 2006.

Talking to reporters outside parliament this afternoon, Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said there may be a certain number of leases – potentially 10 to 15 per cent of applications since 2006 – that could be called into question.

“We are determined to make sure that there is security of title for mining tenements,” Mr Johnston said.

 “The High Court’s decision has created uncertainty among the mining industry, especially regarding the security of tenure for major iron ore and gold projects.

“I can assure the industry we’re taking this matter very seriously.

“The state government is acting swiftly to ensure certainty and security for mining operations.”

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia acting chief executive Nicole Roocke said retrospective legislation would provide much-needed certainty for mining projects potentially affected by the High Court’s decision.

“Security of tenure is a fundamental principle of the Mining Act and the High Court has cast enough doubt to make such a legislative fix necessary,” she said.

“Once drafted, CME will be encouraging parliament to consider this legislation as a matter of highest priority and for it to proceed with bi-partisan support.”

Association of Mining & Exploration companies acting chief executive Graham Short said Mr Johnston’s announcement would provide some certainty for mining tenement holders.

“This is good news as the decision could potentially have significant wide financial consequences for the mining and mineral exploration industry,” he said.

“It is imperative that the government acts quickly to remove the uncertainty that exists for tenement holders that may be unintentionally non-compliant with the Mining Act.

“When taking remedial action AMEC has recommended that the government should also give consideration to amending the Mining Act to provide an extension of time of 14 days to lodge supporting statements, particularly relating to sections 74 and 58.”

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