WITH the mining boom in South Australia showing no signs of slowing, pastoralists and miners should consider creating a formal Code of Conduct to reduce potential conflict between the two groups.
That’s according to Managing Partner of Mellor Olsson Lawyers Andrew Goode, who says South Australia is lagging behind other states to implement a Code of Conduct between miners and pastoralists with Codes already established in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
“A Code of Conduct in South Australia may reduce the likelihood of future conflict,” Andrew says.
“The Code of Conduct should have minimum requirements that are legally binding on miners and explorers accessing the land of pastoralists.
“While the South Australian Mining Act and other legislation provide some protection to pastoralists, the reality is there are many unanswered legal issues which are not considered until something bad happens, such as a major accident on the property.”
In New South Wales the Farmers Association and the NSW Minerals Council have a Code of Conduct which tries to balance both the rights and concerns of private land holders with the importance of determining if mineral resources exist on rural land.
“In our state the Mining Act offers some protection, and the State Government imposes stringent conditions on miners and drillers when they access the land, but there is nothing spelt out between the miners and the pastoralists themselves,” says Andrew.
The Primary Industries and Resources SA (PIRSA) website has a useful guide about what mining companies and explorers should do to maintain good relations with landowners and it includes much of what is contained in the interstate Codes.
However, binding obligations do not exist unless these recommendations are covered in an Access Agreement or imposed by legislation. A formal Code of Conduct would be useful in setting out general guidelines, and could be incorporated, where appropriate, in Access Agreements.
“In any situation where a landholder agrees to allow access to land, risks arise. Those risks should be limited as much as possible by a carefully worded Access Agreement which would also cover the issues set out in interstate Codes of Conduct, and the PIRSA information sheet,” says Andrew.
“A Code of Conduct in South Australia, which could be attached to an access agreement, might help the mining industry to get pastoralists on side rather than have them regard the potential entry of explorers as an unwanted intrusion onto their land. It would also help to protect the rights of pastoralists.”
Mellor Olsson Lawyers