THE YEAR IN REVIEW
As 2017 comes to a close the LRMA looks back over another busy year.
The LRMA Board and staff wish all our members a very Merry Xmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
The LRMA Board is elected at the Annual General Meeting each year in November. The current President is Sebastian Deisenberger and the Directors are Shannon Barrett, Matthew Harrison, Fred Mallouk, Garth Middleton, Ormie Molyneux, Jason Stone and Kelly Tishler
The LRMA office will close Friday 22 December 2017 and reopen on Monday 8 January 2018.
ACCESS MANAGEMENT PLANS
2016 ended with the Land & Environment Court handing down the determination in regards to the re-trial of access management plans (AMP) for ‘Allawah’ and ‘Sorrento’. Opal miners won on all four points and the Commissioner stayed with her original decision not to impose conditions in an AMP that are not required under general law. 2017 kicked off with a judgment for an AMP for ‘Malabar’ which was never followed through as the leaseholder had sold his property and an AMP does not run with the land.
The LRMA is currently in the process of negotiating AMPs with the new owners of ‘Malabar’, ‘Roxburgh’ and ‘Barfield’. An AMP is already in place with the new owners of ‘Muttabun’. The LRMA is awaiting a response from the Secretary of the Department of Planning and & Environment as to whether she will agree to determine an AMP for the property ‘Springvale’.
LIGHTING RIDGE AND SURROUNDING OPAL FIELDS RESERVE MANAGEMENT TRUST
The LRMA believes the NSW government has missed a great opportunity to demonstrate how opal mining and farming can happily co-exist. Instead of keeping all the land that was voluntarily surrendered under the NSW government’s scheme to reduce land use conflict, they plan to fence off the grey soils and sell it on the open market.
The LRMA does not believe the land use conflict in these areas will be eliminated as it is likely to continue with the new neighbours when the time comes. It appears the buffer zone between the grey soils and opal bearing ridges will be negligible.
The Reserve Trust continues to be administered by Crown Land even though it was meant to be converted to a community trust more than 12 months ago. The LRMA had high hopes for the Reserve Trust particularly under the management of the local community and believed the community trust could have practically demonstrated how mining and agriculture could coexist.
At present as well as having to deal with the bureaucracy, rules and regulations of the Division of Resources & Geosciences the LRMA also has to negotiate the regulation strangulation of Crown Lands. Double the process and procedures.
The LRMA was very pleased to host a visit from the Secretariat of Sustainable Development of the State of Queretaro, Mexico in March 2017. The Mexicans were very interested to learn all they could in regards to how our opal mining industry works so they could adapt and regenerate the opal industry in Queretaro.
There were many parallels between opal mining here in Australia and in Mexico. The opal miners in the state of Querétaro tend to be one and two man teams and third generation opal miners. Their mining methods are similar to that in Lightning Ridge 50 years ago. They use explosives to blast the rock, dig it out by hand using picks and wheelbarrows and then crack the rocks by hand looking for opal.
The LRMA President and Directors travelled to Sydney in early May 2017 and met with the Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts as well as the policy advisors for the Minister for Resources, Don Harwin and the Minister for Lands, Paul Toole. The main topics of discussion were communal mullock dumps, inspection of mining titles and the Reserve Trust.
The LRMA were also lucky to meet up with Minister Anthony Roberts again in Lightning Ridge in August 2017. At that meeting the Minister offered the services of the Chief Planner, Gary White who is looking at our industry with fresh eyes and will assist the opal industry plan for the future.
COMMUNAL MULLOCK DUMPS
The Minister for Resources, Don Harwin, MLC advised in November that 42 communal mullock dumps would be exempt from the requirement to be on title for a period of two years. The LRMA believes this covers all current communal mullock dumps.
The exemption will expire on 15 November 2019 and in the meantime the Division of Resources & Geoscience will be consulting the LRMA to develop potential long-term frameworks. The industry has a temporary reprieve and the LRMA will continue to lobby for a practical outcome.
The LRMA has continually argued that communal mullock dumps, introduced in the early 1990s, have been the most successful environmental initiative dramatically reducing the visual impact of opal mining.
INSPECTION OF MINING TITLES
The Division of Resources and Geosciences have inspected very few 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 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 has been making representations to the Division of Resources and Geosciences for quite some time and are hopeful that the original system will be reinstated whereby local Lightning Ridge officers take on a range of functions in addition to safety and inspect all cancelled and lapsed titles.
9TH NATIONAL OPAL SYMPOSIUM
Save the date for the 9th National Opal Symposium which will be held in Lightning Ridge from 22 to 24 July 2018. There is a great line up of speakers who will be presenting on a range of topics from opal to mars, geology, palaeontology, marketing trends and improving mining production
The Gemmological Association of Australia is in the process of updating the classification system for opal. The current nomenclature is over 20 years old and the main aim is to include a classification for hydrophane opal. The LRMA is looking forward to an input when the final draft is available for consultation.
LRMA OPAL ADVISORY SERVICE
The LRMA Opal Advisory Service has closed for the year. The volunteers led by LRMA life member Joe Schellnegger offer a fantastic free service to opal miners every Saturday advising them on the likely value of their hard won opal. The Opal Advisory Service handled $2,666,306 worth of opal over the past year.
The LRMA Opal Advisory Service will recommence their invaluable work at the Lightning Ridge Outback Resort on Saturday 3 February 2018 from 9am to 11am.