1. The States Emergency Levy Act ( ELA )
Dept Of Emergency Services
Small scale miners are supportive of providing towards the Emergency Levy Act ( ELA), however the current amounts being levied is onerous, on small scale mining, particularly when there is by and large, very little chance of this department ever providing any of these emergency services to miners in many of remote and regional areas!
The QSMC require the State to either provide a real service like Emergency Rescue teams with underground training in regional areas or drop the rates to a level that reflects the actual capacity of the department !
Small Scale mining tenures in Regional areas should be categorised as "vacant land "or "vacant land with removable dwelling" categories where applicable.
2. Land Access
The Department of Mines
The State reserves the rights for Minerals on most land tenures, yet the Land Access Codes are being utilised by some land holders and leaseholders to exclude miners and explorers.
Small mine tenure holders, requiring access across private land, are subjected to various legislation, requiring agreements or compensation, through negotiations, mediation's or Land Court hearings. The nature of these obligations, can be drawn out over 3 - 4 years. The access can be settled and the landholder can, at any time, implement a Biosecurity Management Plan, containing unlegislated conditions, adding further access restrictions. The tenure holder, over this time, is still required to pay fees of up to $4,000.00 a year, to DNRME, for the tenure grant approval without being able to access the tenure area.
Under Section 431ZD, the Lands Act, 1994, an authorised Officer, only needs to provide a written notice to the Landholder, in order to access and cross private land in order to gain access, to State Forest or National Park, to carry out activities within that State area. There is nothing in legislation preventing entry and re-entry, on one or more days nor any requirement to comply with Biosecurity General Obligations or Biosecurity Management Plan. Regardless, it is discriminatory that a mining tenure holder cannot be afforded the same simplistic responsible course of action.
Non Exclusive (leasehold ) Land
Non -exclusive land ( State owned), grants limited rights of interest to a lands leaseholder and excludes Mineral rights and Native Title rights, and is the foundation for the landmark Wik decision over this land type in Australia, which acknowledged that each party, (land Leaseholder, Miner /Explorer , Native Title Party ) could share these public lands.
In recent years the State has afforded “land Lease-holders" similar rights as a freeholder!” by way of these Land Access Codes.
This has now caused disincentive for some leaseholder/s to freehold their lands as they enjoy similar rights at a fraction of the cost at the expense of Queenslander's. This act has diminished the benefit of Leasehold lands to the People of Queensland, as now a Land Leaseholder does not need to “Freehold the land,” yet are able to retain the security rights and benefits of a Freeholder at a pittance of the cost!
Land Leaseholders generally only pay a small percentage of the land value to the State per annum, which is either .75% or 1.5% of the unimproved value depending on the lease types.
The "free-holding" of Leasehold lands prior to the State introducing these legislation's provided the people of Queensland financial benefit which was utilised by treasury offsetting some cost of government.
It is questionable in many instances that the rental rate afforded by these leaseholders to the people of Queensland, quantifies the rigid “exclusion” by some Leaseholders, gifted by the State in the guise of the Land Access and Bio security Codes.
In some instances, a mining field may even have a have a higher value to the State compared to grazing, if a genuine "Cost Benefit Analysis" of the leasehold land was conducted.
It may, in some instances, be more beneficial for the people of Queensland to resume portions of these publicly owned, leasehold land tenures, particularly where Restricted Areas for Mining, and, deposits of mineralisation, if mined, would provide a better land use alternative to farming or grazing!
The QSMC seek consultation with the relevant departments to discuss this impasses and request these regulatory Department’s seek Crown law opinion as to the legality of Leaseholder and landholder/s ,"Deed of Grant and Reservations", prior to introduction of Part 5, Section 8, MRA, provisions.
The QSMC require that all land access legislation, policies, guidelines and codes, providing access provisions to lands, under any mining or biosecurity legislative authority, be reviewed as perhaps they are currently not in the best interest of Queensland.
3. A review of the Department of Mines Operational Regulation and Policy’s Security Calculator & Financial Security - Mining Claims
The Department of Mines
The Security Calculator which was developed for Small Scale Mining by the Department of Mines without any Industry Consultation, and must be reviewed with the inclusion of the QSMC delegates.
Whilst miners understand that there needs to be a security, these costs being imposed in this amateurish document and the implementation by the departments compliance officer's of this the policy, verge on the ridiculous.
The DNRM operational Policy, Min/2019/4921, 1/2019, was created.. yet again ... without any industry consultation and have excessive costs and compliance measures which are impractical .
Many of these costs being imposed in this policy, have & will continue to cause significant costs to miners and unnecessarily remove available cash-flow for mining operations.
Furthermore, in the determining of reasonable security under MRA Section 83 (1), legislation does not provide any security relief, to those mining claim or lease holders, who have a history of compliance, in accordance with legislation and policy.
4. Quasi - Health and Safety Legislation for Small Scale miners
The Department of Mines - Safety Inspectorate
The QSMC requires that Quasi Safety and Health regulations as a Code of Practice, be developed between the Small Scale Mining Industry and the Department of Natural Resources, which could provide a “least restrictive alternative”, for which small scale mining industries operate and which does not impose unreasonable compliance costs on small mining businesses yet meets the requirements of the State.
The QSMC and our members in Western Qld. are very interested how the new silicosis regulation that has been imposed by the State will affect these miners, and what wonderful levels of assistance be provided by the State to SSM to become compliant!
Small Scale Mining (SSM) certainly has its risks but regulating SSM with the States expectation as small miners complying to the same legislation and regulation and policy as the big end miners is over-regulating!
5. Exclude Opal Mining from the Lake Eyre Basin Proposal
Premiers Department -Department Of Environment-Department of State Planning
Opal mining is a principle source of income and investment for Regional Queensland communities since 1870!..There is no evidence to support that Opal mining operations are detrimental to ecological sustainability within the Lake Eyre Basin (L.E.B) or Wild Rivers!
In fact, Opal mining has been part of the greater Lake Eyre Basin's history for 150 years without any mention of this mining industry being of detriment to the L.E.B. as Mining is generally carried out far way from the riverine systems.
The QSMC and the States opal miners therefore are opposed to the expansion of the Strategic Environmental Area over the whole of the Lake Eyre Basin, as it will place an unnecessary regulatory burden on these small businesses, as Opal Mining Operations work within already existing Environmental Codes of Compliance, legislation and regulation which the Dept. of Environment & Mines already regulate.
If the Strategic Environmental Area is expanded to cover the whole LEB, it will impose on opal miners for each and every new mining tenure application, an application lodgement fee of $3000.00 per application to the Dept. of State Development for a “Regional Interest Development approval.
” This would be "money for jam," for the State and unsustainable for the opal industry!
As opal mining is of no threat to the Lake Eyre Basin and Western Wild Rivers, Opal Mining and Exploration must be exempted from the Lake Eyre Basin proposal to give opal miners and confidence in investing in our regions!
6. Review Royalties for Gold and Gemstones
Department of Treasury - Office of State Revenue
The QSMC require that Gold royalty for Queensland be reviewed as per the North Queensland Miners Association Submission, in line with interstate counterparts.
The QSMC requires the State to examine the Western Australian model for Gold royalties which would allow gold miners in Queensland to assist in recovering some of the expenses incurred before Royalty is applied,
The royalty free threshold for gemstones was re-introduced at $100,000 in 2013 up from $30,000 which was originally applied.
The Royalty Free threshold is the only fee structure that isn’t amended annually to the CPI.
This $ 100,000 Royalty free threshold should be amended to apply CPI to the this threshold amount annually on Royalty returns documents provided by the Mines Department ( now Treasury).
As the “Cost of Living” and production costs increase annually so should the CPI increase on the Royalty free threshold?
Keeping the Royalty Threshold at a fixed price surmounts to a pay cut each year for low income miners, it would be similar to asking the public servants to stay on the same wage since 2013.
The State increases all costs according to CPI and some... so affixing the CPI increases applied by treasury to Royalty Thresholds would be in line with community expectations!
Additionally the State should not continue with the entrenched practice to villainise Small Scale miners who do not achieve earnings above that of the Royalty threshold.
This antagonism is unprofessional and a breach of the State's own human rights statements!
7. Review of Endangered Regional Ecosystem (ERE)
Department of Environment
The QSMC request that the State Government through the Queensland Herbarium be requested, in consultation, to reassess the current Endangered Regional Ecosystem (ERE), zoning, significantly impacting on commercial gem production, small businesses and the Community, within the Anakie Mineral Field
The ERE was placed over some areas of the Anakie Mineral Field, back in the 90’s. It had the affect, of protecting brigalow, acacia and other wooded vegetation. The impact is that there are various small ERE areas, across the Gemfields, and under legislation, prevents mining leases within 1,000m, and mining claims, 500m, of an ERE. In the very limited virgin viable mineralised ground, this excludes a diameter of 2,000m and 1,000m respectively, from any form of mining and is a significant restriction to commercial mining activity.
8. Small Scale Miner definition
Department of Mines
QSMC request that the State Government give consideration to the legislating of a definition for Small Scale Mining.
This Small Scale Mining definition definition should include "alluvial gold" mining, as opposed to the current Small Scale Mining activities provision, which provides no delineation from Level 1 mining.
9. Unstable ground in hand mining claims
Department of Mines
The QSMC requires the State Government to give considerations to legislative amendments to allow for the removal of overburden to the depth of 5m, by machinery, on an approved hand mining claim, to remove unsafe overburden to allow a miner to safely tunnel.
This is particularly relevant where overburden is unstable in a shaft which is likely to cause collapse and injury/ and or death and a genuine safety concern on some hand mining claims.
10. Mineralisation Of Land
Department of Mines
Pretesting of Prescribed Mining Claims and Leases
QSMC require that Section 53 MRA, be amended to approve applicants to test their lease or mining claim, for mineralisation, prior to the tenement being actually granted, should the area be proved non -viable, saving significant costs to the applicant, with the relevant security for restoration -held by DNRME.
There is no legislative provision, allowing an applicant for a prescribed mining claim or lease, to pre-test the proposed mining tenure, for viable mineralisation, prior to the tenement being granted.
The applicant is required to expend significant application, environmental, security and Landholder compensation costs including time wasted before the granting of the Permit. Should the permit be proven non-viable after grant, there is no recompense, and the applicant bears all associated costs.
Section 53 of the Mineral Resources Act, 1989, could be amended to allow pre- testing. Such action would promote and support increased exploration leading to increased mineral productivity.
The determined restoration or rehabilitation security would be held by Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy until completion of testing and satisfactory rehabilitation.