The Queensland Government has introduced shorter exploration grants for explorers in the state’s opal fields in an effort to free up land faster for boulder opal mining.
Under the changes, exploration permits will be granted for two years rather than five, and explorers will have to make their findings available for other explorers.
“These changes mean land will turn over faster for new explorers and, as a result, create more opportunity to grow an important area of Queensland’s opal industry and bolster the Palaszczuk Government’s diverse and effective COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan,” Resources Minister Scott Stewart said.
“These amendments will be a shot in the arm for the opal industry and provide valuable flow-on effects for nearby communities like Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Jundah, Quilpie and others.”
Stewart said under the changes explorers will also need to report their findings which become freely available at the end of the term.
“This will allow future explorers to make informed decisions about any new applications,” Stewart said.
The Opalton-Mayneside Restricted Area, known as RA257, was first opened up for opal development in June 1992 and remains one of the most active opal areas in Queensland.
It currently has 120 production permits and 35 exploration permits targeting opal.
The amendments to the area were made in consultation with peak opal industry group the Queensland Boulder Opal Association (QBOA).
QBOA president James Evert said the move is a great outcome for the growing opal mining community.
“We are seeing more investors with modern equipment getting into the opal mining industry,” he said.
“The two-year term for an exploration permit will make opal miners use the permit for what its purpose is or else run out of time.
“The success and longevity of the opal mining industry will depend on access to potential ground in sensible, reasonable time frames.
“By limiting the term of an exploration permit, we are creating a greater opportunity for opal miners to further develop the opal industry in the region.”
More information on small-scale mining in Queensland can be found here.