LRMA VISITS MINISTERS
LRMA President and Directors travelled to Sydney in early May to meet with the Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts and the offices of the Ministers for Resources, Don Harwin and the Minister for Lands Paul Toole.
The LRMA discussed three issues at our meetings -
Communal Rehabilitation Stockpiles
There is a requirement for all ‘ancillary mining activities’ to be on a mining title. This legislation was introduced quite a number of years ago and the Minister exempted this requirement for a while as no one was ready however now the deadline of 15 November 2017 is looming.
The communal rehabilitation stockpiles that service the opal industry and enable miners to deposit and win back mullock are not on title. The LRMA was told quite forcefully by the Division of Resources and Geosciences (new name) that if the rehabilitation stockpiles were not on title miners would not be permitted to use them.
The LRMA put a strong argument to the Minister for Resources office detailing the importance of the stockpiles, the benefit to the environment and the consequences if opal miners could not dump and win back mullock for rehabilitation.
The LRMA learnt late last week that the Minister is considering using his powers under the Mining Act 1992 to exempt the requirement for the 40 odd rehabilitation stockpiles to be on title. This may only be a temporary reprieve until a system is put in place to manage the stockpiles however we are hopeful a sensible regime can be put in place. Every miner pays a levy on grant and renewal of a mineral claim to maintain and rehabilitate the stockpiles. The LRMA argued that the levy should satisfy the government’s aim to ensure strong rehabilitation and environmental outcomes for the opal industry’s communal stockpiles.
Currently there is a Bill going through Parliament that amongst other things changes the term ‘mining purposes’ to ‘ancillary mining activities’ however the definition remains the same. The Bill also enables an ‘ancillary mining activity’ to be either put on a title or to be attached to the conditions of a Mining Lease to ensure the area is rehabilitated at the end of the life of the mining lease it is attached to.
Inspection of Mining Titles
The Division of Resources and Geosciences have not inspected any cancelled claims since the end of 2016. The Lightning Ridge based officers are now focussed solely on safety issues and are no longer permitted to inspect cancelled and lapsed titles. The Division is proposing that they undertake a risk based assessment to determine which titles they will inspect and rely upon the miners to swear they have rehabilitated appropriately for the rest. The Resources Regulator will then respond to any complaints in regards to titles not rehabilitated to the correct standard.
The LRMA believes every title should be inspected as they have for over 50 years. It is vital that all titles on completion are up to standard to reduce environmental impact and to reduce conflict with landholders otherwise it will be even more difficult to gain access to new areas.
The LRMA believes their original system should be reinstated whereby local Lightning Ridge officers take on a range of functions in addition to safety and inspect all cancelled and lapsed titles. It does not make much sense to the LRMA as every time the environmental unit or compliance unit visit Lightning Ridge the local officers need to accompany them. It would be more efficient for the local officers to do the inspections in the first instance.
Lightning Ridge and Surrounding Opal Fields Management Reserve Trust
The LRMA, GGSMA, Tourist Association, Historical Society, Australian Opal Centre and the Walgett Shire Council are all members of the proposed community trust, yet to be appointed, to manage the Lightning Ridge and Surrounding Opal Fields Management Reserve Trust. At a community consultation meeting held by Crown Lands in March 2016 it became apparent there would be insufficient funds to manage the Reserve Trust area adequately without continually applying for government grants. This would be an onerous burden for a voluntary committee. There is around 17,500ha contained in the Reserve Trust.
The LRMA along with the organisations mentioned above have been lobbying the government to retain all the lands surrendered as part of the Voluntary Surrender Scheme in the Reserve Trust. At present the government is proposing to fence off and sell the grey soils. The group believes the grey soils should be added to the Trust to enable the Trust to generate income from the cropping land, for example, by share farming or licensing, so the land can be properly managed thus avoiding land use conflict with surrounding neighbours and negate the need to apply for grants.
There are over 35,000 Crown Reserves in NSW and very few, if any are self-sufficient.
Our local member The Hon Kevin Humphries, MP is discussing this proposal with the appropriate Ministers on behalf of the group.
DIVISION OF RESOURCES NOW WITH PLANNING
The Division of Resources and Energy has been renamed the Division of Resources and Geosciences. Following the change of Premier the Division has been moved from the Department of Industry and is now part of the Department of Planning.
The Minister for Resources is the Hon. Don Harwin, MLC and the Minister for Planning is the Hon Anthony Roberts, MP who was previously the Minister for Resources.
At the last AGM the members agreed that the Board of Directors could appoint a new auditor for the 2016/17 financial year. The Board has appointed Helmut Leins who was the LRMA’s auditor since the incorporation of the Association. Helmut did not have sufficient time for the last financial year but luckily for us he now has.
Attached for members’ information are a number of newsletters from the International Opal Jewellery Design Awards Association. The gala dinner will be held on Friday 28 July 2017 and theme is the Great Gatsby. If it is anything like the dinner held two years ago it will be a fantastic evening.
TUNIN PARTY FOR AUSTRALIAN OPAL CENTRE
Save the date – Saturday 17 June 2017 starting at 5.00pm. The Tunin’s will be hosting a party at their camp at Nebia Hill in aid of the Australian Opal Centre. There will be a live band with guest artists from Brisbane and the USA. The Men’s Shed will have sausage and steak sandwiches along with tea and coffee for sale.
Bring your own grog and chair. There will be raffles and party games. Don’t miss this one as according to Peter it is probably their last party as the band is getting old!
Now is the perfect time to join the LRMA as you will receive the months of May and June for free and membership will be current until 30 June 2018. Any member who wishes to renew their membership for next financial year can do so at any time as your new cards are ready.
The following have applied for membership of the LRMA. If any member has an objection to any of these membership applications please contact the LRMA office and your objection will be treated with the strictest of confidence.
Christopher Priestly Proposer: Shane Cridland Seconder: Tim Dominick
Teresa Cree Proposer: Laurie Cree Seconder: Danny White
Rydge Mapperson Proposer: Maxine O’Brien Seconder: Kavitha Barron
Jackson Hourn Proposer: Warren Hourn Seconder: Rebel Lever
Vanessa Vinkovic Proposer: Vlad Vinkovic Seconder: Dwayne Hanrahan