The Victorian Division of the Minerals Council of Australia yesterday questioned whether a bill introduced to State Parliament would actually increase exploration.
The Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Peter Batchelor yesterday tabled the Minerals Resources Amendment (Sustainable Development) Bill, which aims to amend the arrangements for exploration licences in the state.
It also aims to make several other “minor amendments” aimed at improving the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act.
According to executive director of the Victorian Division, Chris Fraser, said the industry supports the minor amendments, including the introduction of a retention licence, the improved landowner consent provisions and the improved work plan approval processes.
“However, the minerals industry in Victoria does not see the need to amend the exploration licensing requirements,” he said.
“The proposed changes to the exploration licence arrangements are claimed to be necessary to make Victoria more attractive to investors by increasing the turn-over of licences.
“For its part, the industry cannot reconcile this government objective with the current reality and is extremely concerned that the amendments create a sovereign risk issue for companies that have invested significant resources in assembling their exploration licence portfolios from a piecemeal of historic mining and exploration tenements.”
According to Fraser, the State’s success rate in turning exploration results into mining projects is within the mid-range of the industries in other states.
“Unfortunately, the proposed changes to exploration licences will not improve these metrics,” he said.
“The existing laws simply need to be effectively administered to encourage greater investment.
“Further, there is no queue of explorers wanting access to land held by others.
“In fact, the extent of Victoria covered by exploration licences is above average when compared with other states, which would indicate that we have a healthy interest in exploring in the state.”
However, the Division also welcomed the introduction of the Traditional Owner Settlement Bill to Parliament yesterday.
The bill is designed clear up unresolved native title claims by providing an alternative settlement framework through agreements between the traditional owner groups and the State.
“Under this framework, traditional owners will have the option of entering a binding agreement with the State and removing their native title claim under the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act,” Fraser said.
“The new approach offers significant advantages to the traditional owner groups and provides certainty for businesses that use Crown land in Victoria.
“Whilst the details of the individual agreements are yet to be resolved, the minerals industry in Victoria is cautiously supportive of the new approach as it offers a number of significant benefits.”
The Division said the new framework would allow the industry to deal with the indigenous owners on a commercial, rather than legal, basis.