BRISBANE, AAP – Queensland needs a public register for mining applications after administration deficiencies affecting more than 900 leases were exposed, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.
Proposed amendments to the state’s Mineral Resources Act aim to retrospectively address the issue that could expose projects to legal challenges, a Transport and Resources Committee report tabled on Friday says.
“The Department of Resources has identified there were 86 mining leases for coal and 847 mining leases for other minerals that have one of the following or both administrative deficiencies: firstly, the minister did not recommend the issuing of the lease; secondly, the instrument of lease was not issued to the holder,” Resources Minister Scott Stewart said when introducing the Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Bill on Friday.
Changes are need to “ensure certainty” for lease holders and “do not confer any new rights or obligations on any stakeholders”, the Department of Resources said in the report.
“While the department believes that these mining leases are valid, these deficiencies do create some uncertainty for their holders and could give rise to potential legal challenges about the validity of the individual leases,” it said.
There has been no requirement to issue an instrument of mining lease since 2010, the department noted.
A number of environmental groups told the committee an absence of transparency in the Queensland mining approval process contributed to the oversight.
“To improve basic transparency to try to prevent some of these failings in future, we believe the Bill should be amended to require that all mining and petroleum leases and renewals are placed on a public register, as occurs in other states like NSW for example,” the Lock the Gate Alliance said.
“In NSW there is a public register of all mining leases and all renewals. In NSW they also need to produce an annual return, which is public, which shows the activities they have been doing in that year.”
A register would enable greater public scrutiny, which “will assist in avoiding similar issues in the future”, the Queensland Conservation Council said.
The Department of Resources said it was committed to “being transparent in relation to resource authorities and applications” and believes a public register is an important tool to achieve that goal.
The Transport and Resources Committee recommended the bill be passed.