Disputes between opal miners and graziers in Western NSW may find a solution in the suggestions of Walgett Shire mayor David Lane.
Concerned about the rising animosity between miners and farmers who have leases for different activities on the same plots of crown land at Lightning Ridge, Lane has called on the State government to help divide the land for appropriate uses.
“You've got one crown lessee who has a lease to graze on his country, and another crown lessee who has the right to mine for gem stones. So there is dual occupancy of the same land and that's where the tension comes from,” Lane told the ABC.
Lane said he and the Walgett council had been in discussion with state government representatives about the prospect of opal miners buying leases to opal-bearing crown land from graziers willing to sell.
“The simple solution is to purchase the fields. Miners are not interested in black soils, they are only interested in the ridge country.”
Lane’s plan is for miners to pay an annual mining fee which would purchase the crown land from agricultural lessees, paid to the Department of Mineral Resources, granting opal miners exclusive access to opal fields.
“Opal is not big mining, it is like a cottage industry,” Lane said.
“It just needs a government framework for the miners to pay an annual contribution, which they do, to purchase these fields and to pay it off to the government over a set period.”