We have had a very busy year and have made some progress on a number of fronts.
The highlight was NSW Parliament passing the Mining Amendment (Small-Scale Title Compensation) Act 2014 in September 2014. Minister for Resources & Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts, MP achieved what previous Ministers had only promised. The Bill is slated to commence on 1st January 2015 and will resolve the compensation issue that has been hanging around for a number of years.
As part of this legislation the Division of Resources and Energy will be collecting compensation on grant and renewal of titles. We must acknowledge the enormous effort Minister Roberts and our local member and Minister for Western NSW, The Hon. Kevin Humphries, MP put into convincing the Division they must collect and distribute compensation.
This Bill will also reinstate industry levies for roads, rehabilitation stockpiles and environment. Miners will notice an increase in costs next year when registering and renewing titles.
The Division of Resources & Energy has been reshuffled and they appear to be more consultative and forthcoming with information than they have in the past and we believe we have Minister Roberts to thank for this. We have met with the Minister three times this year – twice in Sydney and once when he visited Lightning Ridge for the Opal Festival.
As secretary of the National Opal Miners Association, Maxine O’Brien and the Gemmological Association of Australia’s Terry Coldham made a presentation on 3 February 2014 in Tucson to the Gemstone & Industry Laboratory Conference on the attributes of Australian opal in relation to other world deposits. This resulted in the hugely successful Great Australian Opal Tour at the end of September which saw an interested group of gemmologists tour the opal fields of Australia. Since that time there has been a follow up scientific paper by Anthony Smallwood that has appeared in the last issue of The Australian Gemmologist.
Australian opal has received some very positive promotion this year in a number of significant publications including the International Colored Gemstone Association’s InColor Magazine and China Gems.
The LRMA celebrated 40 years of incorporation at Amigo’s Castle on 5 April 2014 and it was an excellent night and many past Presidents, Directors and Secretaries attended.
On 16 December we will be before the Land & Environment Court seeking determinations of Access Management Plans for ‘Muttabun’, ‘Allawah’ and ‘Sorrento’. Once these Plans are determined we are hopeful this will ease the way for other Plans we have been unable to reach agreement on.
Opal Prospecting Block Maps have been a mess for several years now however the Division of Resources and Energy has started work on resolving some of the boundaries and the LRMA have had input into a consultation draft.
The Division are preparing a policy to implement a buffer zone from stock watering points where mining and prospecting may not occur. There is no prescribed distance under the Mining Act for mining however the landholders are lobbying for a 200m zone. The LRMA has put forward their proposal and are awaiting a draft policy to comment on.
The LRMA’s major challenge for 2015 will be fighting against the Division of Resources & Energy’s proposal to stop mining on the cretaceous ridges that run under the grey soil and to restrict mining 100m up the ridges from the grey soil. This is an extremely serious issue which, if implemented, would be incredibly detrimental to the industry.
The Board and staff wish all our members and the community a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy 2015. We are hopeful 2015 will be a great year with improved opal prices and the major issues of compensation and access mainly resolved (if all goes according to plan).
The LRMA Opal Advisory Service will re-open on Saturday 7th February 2015.
The LRMA office will be closed from Tuesday 23 December 2014 and re-open on Wednesday 7th January 2015.