NSW Farmers say risk to opal mining exaggerated

Claims that the opal mining industry is at risk due to over regulation by the government has been attacked by NSW Farmers.

The Lightning Ridge Miners' Association has warned the industry could collapse as a series of regulatory changes drive up the costs of mining, The Daily Liberal reported.

Miners have to pay a fee to Lighting Ridge landholders for the use of the farmland where the mining is conducted.

The NSW government recently abolished collecting that compensation from miners in the town, forcing them to enter into private agreements with landholders.

However, NSW Farmers' chief executive officer, Matt Brand, said the support for better regulation of the opal industry was not aimed at destroying it.

“We recognise the important role the opal mining industry plays in the economy and character of Lightning Ridge, however it's time for the gold rush mentality to make way for modern regulation," Brand said.

"The fact is the rules around land access, rehabilitation and compensation have broken down and are no longer serving farmers or miners.

"NSW Farmers isn't seeking to limit the growth of the industry – we simply want to ensure that regulations are appropriate, enforced and allow both industries to prosper.

"The reality is that we are both running a business on the same piece of land.

"It's an unusual situation and not an easy relationship. Unless we get on the front foot and make changes now we'll be here having this same conversation in 10 years' time.

"That doesn't deliver certainty for agriculture or opal mining."

Maxine O'Brien from the Lightning Ridge Miners Association argues abolition of levies to help with the upkeep of roads and rehabilitation of mining sites, along with an increase in government security deposits that miners pay, has made doing business in the town too expensive.

“Over time we have definitely noticed a shrinking of the industry”, she said.

“I mean, 10 years ago there was probably something like 5,000 or 6,000 mining titles – now it's down to about three.”

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