WA Government considers mining act changes following Andrew Forrest case

The Western Australian Government may make changes to the state’s mining act following a High Court decision that blocked mining on Andrew Forrest’s cattle station in the Pilbara.

Last month’s High Court decision was made despite the Supreme Court of Western Australia already granting mining leases at the property.

The move to stop Yarri Mining and Onslow Resources from applying for sand mining tenements at Forrest’s Minderoo Station has created uncertainty around several mining leases that have been similarly granted in the state.

According to the WA Government, the High Court found the process of granting mining lease applications in the state was flawed.

WA’s Mining Act 1978 requires a mining lease application to be accompanied by either a mining proposal or a mineralisation report.

In the Forrest case, the applicants submitted mineralisation reports after the mining lease applications were lodged, but before they were considered.

No interested party was disadvantaged by allowing the documents in question to be lodged separately. The decision has, however, led to uncertainty around existing mining tenements that may have been granted under a similar process since 2006.

The WA Government will now explore legislative solutions to overcome the concerns created by the High Court’s ruling, including the legislation operating retrospectively if required.

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the decision had created uncertainty among the mining industry, especially regarding the security of tenure for major iron ore and gold projects.

“I can assure the industry we’re taking this matter very seriously,” Johnston said.

“The state government is acting swiftly to ensure certainty and security for mining operations.”

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) acting chief executive Graham Short said Johnston’s announcement would provide some certainty for mining tenement holders in WA.

“The decision opened the door to granted mining leases being found to be invalid as a result of a flaw in the underlying application where a tenement holder may have failed to provide a mineralisation report at the time of the application,” Johnston said.

“In order to deal with the unintended consequences, the government is examining legislative solutions to address the issues raised in the Forrest v Forrest case.”

Short urged the WA Government to move quickly to remove any uncertainty that exists following the case.