Monday, 28 October 2013

Mining lease conditions slashed and application processing times reduced

On 17 October 2013, the NSW Resources and Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher announced significant amendments to the standard conditions for exploration licences and mining leases which will result in the removal of conditions that are already covered by obligations under the Mining Act and other mine safety legislation.

The amendments also involve the deletion of conditions relating to matters that are already regulated by other government departments, such as the Department of Planning as well as other outdated and redundant conditions.

The removal of the duplications will cut the number of conditions for future standard coal mining leases in NSW from 24 conditions to nine. The standard ‘Mining Lease Conditions (Coal) 2013’ now relate to the following limited matters:
  • landholder notification following the grant or renewal of the lease
  • satisfactory rehabilitation of disturbance following the completion of activities
  • the preparation of approved Mining Operations Plans, an annual rehabilitation report and annual compliance report
  • notification to the Department in the event of an environmental incident which breaches the mining lease, the Mining Act 1992 (NSW)or the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW)
  • the preparation of ‘eligible subsidence management plans’ which will dictate the level of subsidence that is permitted to be caused by underground mining operations
  • optimisation of resource recovery of the minerals that are the subject of the mining lease
  • the payment of a security deposit for the fulfillment of obligations under the mining lease, and
  • making every reasonable attempt to enter into cooperation agreements with overlapping title holders.

The purpose of these amendments is to minimise the costs of doing business in NSW and boost investment certainty. Significant obligations which have now been deleted from the standard conditions relate to environmental harm, working requirements (i.e. minimum number of personnel), blasting, safety, prevention of soil erosion and pollution, roads and tracks, trees and vegetation and indemnities.

This means that if your mining lease is granted or renewed after 17 October 2013 you can expect significantly reduced obligations to be imposed under the new mining lease conditions. All mining leases granted or renewed prior to this date will continue to operate under the previous conditions that were issued.

Assessment timeframes reduced

The Government has also committed to reducing the times for assessing coal exploration licences and mining leases will be cut from 150 days to 95 days, while times for processing renewal applications will be reduced from 100 days to 55. These changes came into effect on 1 July 2013.

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