Companies with interests in mining and petroleum will now be subject to the streamlined compliance regime that commenced in Queensland on 31 March 2013. The primary focus of Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Act 2012 (Qld) (the Act) is to streamline and harmonise procedures to apply for and deal with various types of resource interests including exploration permits, authorities to prospect, mineral development licences, mining leases and petroleum leases (each a Resources Interest).
For those in the resources industry, two aspects of the Act will be of particular interest:
- the new regime for dealings and transfers, and
- a uniform caveat system across mining and petroleum titles.
Dealings and transfers
The Act introduces a streamlined regime for dealings with, and transfers of, Resources Interests. All dealings must be registered to take effect. However, those that effectively divide part of the area of a Resource Interest (for example, a part of the surface area, or particular strata beneath the surface) are prohibited. There is an exception for subleases and transfers of subleases.
The Act introduces a concept of ‘non-assessable transfers’ that take effect on notification without requiring Ministerial approval. For example, transfers of mortgages, subleases and transfers of a Resource Interest from one holder to another, can all be registered and take effect without Ministerial approval.
For those transfers that are ‘assessable’, the Act harmonises the indicative and final approvals process across mining and petroleum legislations, suggesting that there will now be a more robust indicative approval assessment of mining title transfers than under the old regime.
Final approval of an assessable transfer is ‘taken to be given’ if the approval application is made within 3 months of an indicative approval (and certain other conditions are satisfied). This period may be extended to 6 months if the applicant notifies the Minister that the assessable transfer remains subject to approval under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (Cth).
Streamlined caveats system
The Act also puts in place a uniform caveat system across all Resources Interests, which means that caveats can now be lodged against petroleum titles.
Certain people claiming an interest in a Resources Interest can lodge a caveat to prevent registration of dealings with that Resources Interest. Lodgement of a caveat does not itself create an interest in the relevant Resource Interest, and caveats cannot be lodged against all Resources Interest. For example, a caveat cannot be registered if it applies to:
- an application for indicative approval of the Minister,
- an indicative approval given by the Minister or mining registrar,
- an application for approval of an assessable transfer, or
- a notice to register a dealing (e.g. non-assessable transfer) given to the chief executive.
The Act seeks to limit the availability of unfounded caveats by:
- prohibiting caveators from lodging multiple caveats on the same or substantially similar grounds over the same Resources Interest, and
- requiring caveators to compensate anyone who suffers loss or damage if a caveat is lodged without reasonable cause.