The regulatory framework governing mineral exploration in NSW is made up of a number of sources of authority including the following:
The above is by no means an exhaustive list, with different exploration activities potentially triggering further approval or compliance requirements under state and federal laws. If you’re not sure about the relevant approval requirements for your proposed activities (in NSW or elsewhere), feel free to get in touch or alternatively reach out to Hetherington Legal or Hetherington Environmental to speak to one of our mining lawyers or environmental consultants.
With the ever-growing importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations to successful resource projects, we thought it would be helpful to provide a summary in relation to once of the most important and sometimes overlooked components of the NSW mineral exploration regulatory framework, the Exploration Code of Practice: Community Consultation.
Essentially all Exploration Licences and Assessment Leases in NSW are subject to a condition requiring compliance with the Exploration Code of Practice: Community Consultation. The Code of Practice sets out a number of requirements, many of which are mandatory, for holders of prospecting titles in NSW. These range from reporting requirements to record keeping obligations and can be the subject of a compliance audit at any time. It’s therefore critical that tenement holders are aware of their obligations under the Code of Practice and implement effective systems to ensure ongoing compliance and avoid penalties associated with non-compliance.
Compliance audits and potential penalties for non-compliance aside, the Code of Practice is also a good starting point for establishing proactive ESG practices to safeguard your operations and maintain a social licence to operate. Early and proactive consultation activities are important to the long-term viability of any exploration program, with local stakeholders having extensive powers under mining and environmental law, which can have major impacts on proposed exploration activities.
Mandatory requirements under any Code of Practice effective serve as the minimum threshold for compliance. Breaching these requirements would constitute a breach of conditions of title, rendering the holder liable to penalties ranging from fines to cancellation of tenements.
At a glance, the mandatory requirements for compliance with the Exploration Code of Practice: Community Consultation are as follows:
Prior to starting any operations under a prospecting tenement, the holder must ensure a risk assessment has been undertaken to identify and consider the range of opportunities and potential threats associated with community consultation and engagement.
Once the Risk Assessment has been completed, a CCS must be prepared and regularly updated by the tenement holder, which manages any risks identified in the risk assessment. It is critical that the form and content of the CCS is adequate for the scale and extent of prospecting operations to be undertaken, the underlying land and identified stakeholders.
Progress against and implementation of the CCS must be documented in an annual report to be lodged with the Department along with the other components comprising the Annual Activity Report for the particular prospecting title. A critical part of this process is identifying new opportunities to update and improve community consultation activities, particularly in the context of new prospecting operations.
The final mandatory requirement under the Code of Practice is keeping records relating to community consultation. Ultimately this obligation should work in the holder’s favour and compliment any broader ESG recording and reporting practices.
Whilst its great to be aware of what your requirements are on paper, being able to implement them effectively and achieve best practice in accordance with your ESG goals is critical. We’ve set out some helpful tips for implementing the requirements in practice.
Hetherington has an excellent track record in assisting clients with their community consultation obligations including:
Call the team at Hetherington today to find out more about how we can help you meet your community consultation and ESG goals.