Changes will threaten the livelihood of Landholders and benefit the Mining Industry

The Queensland Government has launched an initiative to replace the current regulatory framework, intended to modernise and globalise Queensland's resources sector. If approved, the new framework would collapse the current framework comprising of twenty (20) tenures regulated by six (6) Acts into five (5) broad tenure types.

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) proposes significant changes which will create accelerated pathways for tenement holders by removing the current requirement for tenement holders to acquire prerequisite tenures such as an Exploration Permit for Coal (EPC) prior to the approval of a Mining Lease (ML).

The new framework would do away with the renewal process by granting a defined maximum term of tenure. The reform would also see the removal of strict limitations on statutory maximum areas for exploration to allow proponents to strategically apply for land based on geological rationale or work plan modelling. Rehabilitation requirements are also proposed to be amended and criteria developed to be factored into work plans over the tenure lifecycle, as opposed to the current framework with progressive rehabilitation requirements.

DNRM released the Innovative Resource Tenure Framework: Policy Position Paper in August 2015 detailing the objectives of the proposed reform, subject of an information session hosted by DNRM in Townsville on 23 September 2015 attended by of Emanate Legal. Principal of Emanate, Mr Barry Taylor strongly rejects all proposed amendments by DNRM and said the proposed changes will threaten the livelihood of Landholders for the benefit of the mining industry.

Whilst Mr Taylor supports and recognises that Queensland's resources sector is a world class producer of base materials, the Queensland Government must manage and balance the interaction between the mining and agricultural industry. Mr Taylor is of the view the proposed changes are heavily in favour of the resources industry and must be adjusted to ensure that the lifeblood of this country (rural industry) is protected and kept alive.

Other proposed changes favourable to the resources sector, at a detriment to Landowners include:

• Tenement holders will be provided incentives to mine in unexplored or under-explored areas of Queensland, providing less good quality agricultural land for Landowners;
• DNRM propose to establish a means for land turnover and retention so that land can continue to be made available for future exploration and creating a flexible means of recognising large scale projects comprising of multiple tenures.
• Removing the requirement for prescriptive work plans. New work plans will detail the exploration objective up to mid-term. There will be no requirement to apply for a variation of conditions to the work plan as long as the plan is in accordance with the objective. The work plan will be self-assessable, including reporting of compliance, rather than DNRM assessing annually.

DNRM are inviting feedback in relation to the proposed reforms. The deadline for lodging submissions with the DNRM are 5pm 16 October 2015.