The Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 (Bill) was introduced into Queensland State Parliament on 23 February 2016. Amongst other matters, the Bill gives effect to the Queensland Government’s election promise to reinstate various public notification requirements and community objection rights to proposed mining projects.
In 2015, the former LNP Government passed the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2015 (Qld) (MERCP Act). The passage of the MERCP Act was a key step in the Modernising Queensland’s Resources Acts Program (MQRA Program), which aims to amalgamate Queensland’s various legislative regimes governing natural resource extraction into a single regulatory framework. The majority of the provisions in the MERCP Act have not yet commenced.
While there is general bipartisan support for the MQRA Program, the MERCP Act also included a number of more contentious reforms, including reductions in public notification requirements and limits on community objection rights in respect of the grant of mining leases. The Bill repeals those parts of the MERCP Act and makes a number of other reforms.
The key proposed amendments include:
- The reinstatement of existing public notification requirements and objection rights for standard or variation applications for environmental authorities relating to mining leases;
- The requirement to publicly notify mining lease applications by means of a newspaper notice; and
- The restoration of general community objection rights in ss 260 and 269 of the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld). The MERCP Act purported to amend these provisions to limit objection rights to ‘affected persons’, and additionally reduced the grounds of objection.
However, the Land Court will retain the power to strike out all or part of an objection notice which it finds to be frivolous or vexatious.
The Bill will also repeal those provisions of the MERCP Act which allowed the Minister to extinguish restricted land for mining leases, or to grant mining leases over restricted land where no consent or compensation has been agreed.
In addition, the Bill proposes to amend the definition of restricted land to include areas within 50m of a principal stockyard, an artesian well, bore, and dam or water storage facility. The restricted land framework applies to all resource authorities, including petroleum leases.
The current 600m rule will continue to apply to resource authorities applied for or granted before the commencement of the relevant provisions. For a number of resource tenures, the existing legislation requires that a conduct and compensation agreement be entered into before authorised activities may be carried out within 600m of an occupied residence or school.
The Bill also proposes to make a number of technical amendments to the new overlapping tenure regime in the MERCP Act for coal and coal seam gas tenements. Relevantly, it is proposed that the requirement to have a joint development plan will only apply where there are overlapping production tenures, namely a mining lease and a petroleum lease.
Once the Bill is passed, the Queensland Government will likely move toward commencing the balance of the unaffected provisions of the MERCP Act in the coming months.