Government fiddles while opal industry burns: Media Release

MEDIA RELEASE:  4 February 2013

 As new markets for Australian opal are developing and commodity prices are increasing NSW opal exploration and mining has been stifled and land use conflict escalates.

Government inaction is forcing the industry to remain in limbo following the loss of important infrastructure levies, a dramatic increase in security deposits and unresolved landholder compensation issues.

Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher promised to reinstate security deposits to those levels prior to 1 July 2012, when enacted legislation forced the increase, and to set the amount of landholder compensation, but to date no action has been taken and the issue of industry infrastructure levies has not been addressed at all.

Whilst opal miners have a compensation arrangement with the majority of affected landholders the balance has remained in conflict for over three years and no resolution is in sight.

“Miners have the right to explore and mine for opal and these rights are severely curtailed at present and the future is unclear. The uncertainty of whether the levies paid by miners will be available to establish and maintain mining tracks, maintain centralised rehabilitation stock piles and undertake advanced rehabilitation and the costs of security deposits and compensation is impacting the industry. The government is also considering a sunset clause on opal mining, which has caused angst and would stymie opal prospecting and mining and eventually lead to the death of the industry.

“Not only is the local community being affected but black opal wholesalers and retailers will also suffer and our international markets could be jeopardised if resolutions are not put in place in the very near future,” said Maxine O’Brien, Secretary/Manager, Lightning Ridge Miners’ Association Ltd (LRMA).