The Resources Legislation Package is made up of five separate pieces of legislation which make extensive changes to the Mining Act 1992 (NSW) (Mining Act) and Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 (NSW) (Petroleum Act). The following parts of the reform package came into effect on 18 December 2015.
All sections of the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment (Grant of Coal and Petroleum Prospecting Titles) Act 2015 (NSW) commenced except for one minor provision related to opal mining. Most importantly, this means that the new process for allocating coal and coal seam gas titles will now apply. As a result, the direct allocation of an exploration licence for coal will be limited to circumstances where the application is made by an existing holder of a exploration licence, assessment lease or mining lease for an ‘operational allocation purpose’.
The Mining Amendment (Licences for Operational Allocation Purposes) Regulation 2015 (NSW) which amends the Mining Regulation 2010 (NSW) (Mining Amendment Regulation), together with the ‘Guidelines for coal exploration licence applications for operational allocation purposes’, also commenced on 18 December 2015 and prescribes the following as ‘operational allocation purposes’:
- in relation to applications by holders of exploration licences or assessment leases – the purpose of both developing a better mine design proposal and recovering coal resources that would otherwise be likely to be sterilised, and
- in relation to applications by holders of mining leases, each of the following:
- the purpose of extending the life of a mine
- the purpose of developing a better mine design
- the purpose of recovering coal resources that would otherwise be likely to be sterilised, and
- the purpose of obtaining an exploration licence for coal over the subsoil above or below the stratum to which the mining lease concerned relates or over the surface above the land to which that mining lease relates.
The Mining Amendment Regulation also provides that:
- an application for an ‘operational allocation purposes’ can only be sought over a maximum surface area of 33% of the area of the land to which the existing exploration licence, assessment lease or mining lease concerned relates, and
- with reference to clause (b)(iv) above, the boundary of subsoil or the surface area of the land to which the application relates must not exceed the boundary of the area of land to which the mining lease concerned relates.
Limited sections of the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment (Land Access Arbitration) Act 2015 (NSW) commenced enabling seismic works under either an exploration licence or assessment lease (Mining Act) or petroleum title (Petroleum Act) on a road without owner’s consent.
The remaining sections of the above legislation are yet to commence.
Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Beneficial Use of Gas) Regulation 2015 (NSW) commenced under the Petroleum Act. This new regulation amended the Petroleum (Onshore) Regulations to enable the beneficial use of gas on an exploration licence or assessment lease following the commencement of the relevant section of the Harmonisation Act.
As noted in our previous publication, the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Enforcement of Gas and Other Petroleum Legislation) Act 2015 (NSW) commenced 1 December 2015.
The Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum) Legislation Amendment (Harmonisation) Act 2015 (NSW) has still not commenced.