Changes have been made to the planning and performance reporting criteria for the New South Wales coal and coal seam gas industries.
The state’s leading industry body has welcomed the changes, which require exploration licence holders to report annually on their plans and performance across a range of requirements set and overseen by the government.
Prior to the state election, the NSW Liberals announced plans to conduct an audit of coal and coal seam gas exploration licences if elected.
The changes are part of the Regional Strategic Land Use policy implemented by the government.
In May, the NSW government imposed a 60 day moratorium on all new coal and coal seam gas projects in the state.
NSW Minerals Council Deputy CEO Sue-Ern Tan said today the minerals industry is not afraid of transparency.
“Explorers report annually to the NSW Government on how they are performing against their exploration licence requirements, including details of their activities during the year and the results of their exploration program,” she said.
“Exploration licence holders have a wide range of conditions that they must comply with, covering environmental management, geological reporting, and land access.
“When licences are renewed, explorers have to justify the renewal with detailed information about their work and results to date, and the work that they have planned.
“All of these reports are reviewed by the Government to assess exploration progress.
Tan said the government employs strict regulations about mining companies meeting exploration licences.
“The Government already has the ability to cancel an exploration licence if licence conditions are not being met.
“There are legitimate reasons why planned exploration activities may be delayed.
“For example, there may be unforseen delays in getting access to finance, equipment, or in reaching land access agreements with landholders.
“Delays such as these do not mean that an explorer is ‘sitting on’ their licence and do not indicate that an explorer is ‘hiding’ a discovery.”
Tan stressed that exploration licences do not permit mining or guarantee that a mining lease will be granted.
“If there is the potential for a mine to be developed, it must be assessed under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
“This involves a series of stages that normally take several years.
“Each proposal must be considered on its merits and there is no guarantee that approval will be granted,” she said.