What needs to change!
The Department of Mines directors have firmly and repeatedly stated, that Small Scale Mining activities are of a low priority to the Government & The Minister of Mines, The Hon. Anthony Lynham.
We have a long way to go, when Government will not acknowledge the importance of our Industries to regional communities, nor accept or discuss our issues which adversely affects the livelihoods and vocations of the 4,500 small scale miners across the State.
The Queensland Small Miners Council (QSMC), as a collective group, have identified the most pressing legislative concerns documented in our Small Scale Mining and Fossicking Submissions, which have not yet been acknowledged or meaningfully addressed by Government.
Small Scale Miners, which support small regional businesses and communities, will not survive unless good working relationships are developed, based on communication, understanding and mutual respect.
Given the Ministers of Mines current position relayed from his Directors to QSMC delegates, "designating a low priority to Small scale mining ", and the current adverse impacts on Small scale miners from overarching legislation of other regulatory Departments, the QSMC request that the Premiers Department takes the lead to review current State-wide Mining legislation and policy in consultation with relevant departments and the QSMC , which are impacting on production, viability and the future of our Small Scale Mining Industries and the effect upon past and future tourism.
The QSMC and our members require that State Government take recognisance of the significant decline in production of precious gems and gold, across the State, and, address with consultation, a way to increase investment and production in small scale mining operations in Queensland so that these historical industries can once again realise their full potential and hence significantly contribute to the economic progress of regions and the State, which given the current economic crisis brought about by Covid 19 is imperative!
The Queensland Small Miners Council, requests the Premier of Queensland and Cabinet, support the holding of a consultative Parliamentary Committee Inquiry , into the QSMC's legislative concerns and other factors impacting Small Scale Mining & Fossicking, which have adverse flow on effects to Regional tourism and our Communities.
How change can be achieved
1. Government agency employee's must have appropriate skills for their jobs!
The principal agency for regulating small scale mining, the Department of Mines, now lack the experienced mining personnel that the Department once had, with most experience persons having been seconded to other Departments or agencies, in the never ending re-naming and re-branding of departments and the amalgamation and then de-amalgamation of Ministerial portfolios by successive governments.
This has resulted in the diminished competency level of Mines Department Executive today, who have little if any mining experience, and there is but a few experienced departmental personnel left that have risen through the ranks of the Department to become Mining Registrar that are not drawn upon to fill these roles.
The Departments remaining personnel at best, have a limited scope of understanding about mining.
The Department of Science (DES) (ex EPA, EPH,) fair no better with many of the experienced personnel not being retained, with many being recruited by the private sector.
"Governments must ensure that Departmental Staff have an appropriate level of experience and training to undertake the roles for which they are engaged."
2. Address over -regulation and red-tape
Over regulation and red tape still persists within the regulatory departments and agencies, with overarching responsibilities and confusion, which not only affects the small scale miners, but the departmental staff who administer these legislation's, regulations and policies.
The Department of Mines was once a "One stop Shop" which provided all the services in house, from the regional centres where mining took place, providing experienced advice and from Mining Registrars and their Deputy's, at customer service counters, which provided tenure application advice and lodgement service and environmental and compliance oversight!
With the responsibilities of mining tenure processes now dissected to other departments, and, the “transition to digital or phone service only”, many regional mining districts are without the experienced level of face-to-face contact for these tenure processes.
Many Miners particularly those who are not experienced in digital technology, have to track down progress of their applications and compliance protocols, between agencies and somewhere in the agency's networks between Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Emerald, Winton, to name a few!
Every day a Small Scale Miner is delayed by red-tape is a day that the miner must find funds to sustain their families without income.
The Government must review the de-centralisation policy 's that are causing systemic delays, at least for small scale mining, and return these simplistic tenures to be processed "locally " at Mining District Office's, as is the case for our Interstate counterparts who's tenure application processes can be granted in a day!
This is the performance expected of a good public service!
3. Governments and their agencies must provide legitimate and fair consultation to Small Scale Mining Representative Groups.
All Regulatory agencies must abide by the Office of Best Practice Regulation- Regulator Performance framework and afford legitimate and fair consultation to Small Scale Mining representative groups in accordance with the Best Practices approaches to Regulation & Policy.
The QSMC delegate members generally rely on mining for their incomes, therefore, it not only legitimate to engage and include these entity’s in consultation, but also beneficial for regulatory regimes to learn and attain a better understanding of the needs of these small scale mining industries.
The QSMC would prefer to provide these Departmental Staff with our vast array of knowledge within a legitimate consultation framework so that departmental staff can understand our Industries concerns and positions.
Legitimate consultation with Small Scale Mining Stakeholders also ensures that departmental staff are acting within their statutory duty and in accordance of the Qld. Governments Best Performance Framework, when implementing Legislation, Regulation and Policy.
OBPR Regulatory Framework: https://www.qpc.qld.gov.au/regulatory-review/