It’s a question close to the heart of all Australian mining companies.
There is a lot of apprehension within the Australian mining industry at present around the difficulty of obtaining mining plan, environmental and exploration approvals for envisioned mining projects.
In this article, the mining law specialists at Hetherington will address the question of whether mining approvals are becoming harder to obtain and outline a few ways that you can increase your likelihood of success.
Looking to Australian mining legislation and mining regulators will give us an idea of whether there are increasing challenges in obtaining mining related approvals.The legislative requirements are dependent on the state in which the mining operations will take place in. .
For land-based mining, the legislation is often in the hands of the state or territory. Meanwhile, for offshore mineral and petroleum exploration, the Federal Government legislates and dictates policy.
In considering legislation, taking Western Australia as an example, we would look to the Mining Act 1978, Mining Regulations 1981 and the Offshore Minerals Act 2003 as relevant in determining the processes, documentation and fees involved in obtaining mining approvals.
Further, there are a number of other considerations when it comes to mining law in Western Australia, including but not limited to the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994, the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995, and the regulatory powers of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, which can include environmental compliance audits and inspections.
There are also some Federal Government regulations that can infringe on the sovereignty of states, for example the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Each state and territory, in legislating, will often try to balance multiple priorities. States and territories commonly wish to protect and preserve land and to ensure that landholders and title holders are treated equitably. At the same time, it is necessary to develop new areas and advance the economy. These factors and other political and historical machinations result in vastly different regulations state to state.
No uniform mining law exists applicable to the whole of Australia, hence complicating the way in which approvals are sought state by state, therefore it is valuable to engage a tenement consultant or mining lawyer to provide specialised expertise and guidance.
On an anecdotal level, the team at Hetherington have heard from a number of clients that challenges continue to be faced when obtaining mining approvals. It is often at this point that a mining corporation seeks the support of a professional mining lawyer or tenement consultant to increase their chances of success.
The social and political landscape need to be understood to appreciate the current challenges facing mining approvals. Climate change and environmental damage are increasingly a part of the public consciousness, particularly in urban areas where the importance of employment and development that mining provides is less obvious to some portions of society. The regulators will also take these aspects into account when considering approvals for activities.
The Government’s 2019 commissioned review seeking to streamline mining regulation and to find ‘best practice regulation’ that limited obstacles and pointless costs, while still ensuring that the industry was governed appropriately, came on the back of agitation around delayed mineral approvals that were prominent in the news, for example, the Carmichael mine. Further exhibiting historical challenges faced by mining companies.
Additionally, the increasing body of legislation, and the adaptation of existing legislation that has occurred steadily over the years further complicates the landscape. Recently, the Western Australian government released a new bill to parliament titled the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021. The industry on the whole embraces the positive changes to the outdated earlier legislation. However, it is clear that the support of expert mining lawyers will be increasingly beneficial in ensuring that both Native Title holders and mining corporations are on board and on the same page.
Delayed mining approvals can have a grave impact on mining operations, mining continuity, and mining investment.
In the complicated world of mine work health and safety, environmental regulation, and mining regulation, it is in the interests of all responsible and long-term mining operations to take advantage of the services offered by experienced mining lawyers, environmental consultants, and tenement management companies.
By employing the support of tenement consultants and mining lawyers such as those at Hetherington, you can increase the likelihood that your application for tenements and activity approvals will be successful. Our team are familiar with the relevant legislation on a state-by-state and national level and of the intricate processes that will allow your company to commence and continue mining.