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Mining in Western Australia: The Implications of the Land Administration Amendment Bill 2016

By Logan Kean

January 2016 saw the introduction of the Land Administration Amendment Bill, and it is intended to create some new economic and social opportunities, by unlocking the rangelands in Western Australia.

Exploration using reverse circulation techniques is expected to increase significantly as a result of the draft bill announced by the Honourable Terry Redman MLA, who is the Minister for Lands, but what are the wider implications of the bill?

A massive resource

There is no doubt that the Western Australian Rangelands are both unique and highly valuable in equal measure.

A massive that is so massive and prized needs a certain amount of protection from over-development of course, but there are also arguments that suggest that putting the land to greater use, will have economic and social benefits.

The purpose of the Land Administration Bill is to illustrate how the State’s future economic viability can be underpinned, using the Rangelands, which cover an astonishing 87% of the land mass of Western Australia.

Trying to find a compromise

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Bill, is the fact that the government has to come up with a viable proposal which somehow manages to mostly satisfy all interested parties.

In their role as administrator of the Rangelands, the government is required to consider the needs of the existing and potential industries and stakeholders who could be affected by any changes implemented.

It must also take into account the various needs and aspirations of the Aboriginal people and maintain the environmental and cultural integrity of the region.

Balancing the interests of all the relevant parties is certainly no easy task, which is why the Government has been consulting on this matter since 2009.

Lifting previous limitations

The basis of the Bill introduced in January 2016, is to create a new form of land tenure known as the Rangelands Lease.

The primary purpose of these Rangeland Leases is to lift some of the previous limitations on land use imposed by pastoral leases, which currently restricts land usage to commercial grazing of livestock and other associated requirements associated with grazing.

A Rangeland Lease could have wider uses incorporated into the agreements, allowing multiple uses for the land, such as tourism purposes and horticultural uses. It could also allow mining activities and permit conservation-focused activities too.

Rangelands Leases are not specifically intended to replace the Pastoral Leases in place, but they are meant to provide greater scope by lifting some of the restrictions that these original leases impose.

Implications to consider

As is often the case with many government proposals, there are pros and cons on both sides of the argument, as to whether the introduction of the Bill will be a positive step going forward.

Variations in the leases will lead to a greater level of competition between land owners, but it also creates the opportunity for greater levels of conflict with proposed mining activities.

It should also be noted however, that a sizeable proportion of the existing pastoral leases are currently held by mining companies, so it does in theory, give them scope to do more with the land than they could before the proposed Bill was introduced.

About the author: Logan Kean is a mining engineer who is studying with the Open Universities in his spare time. He enjoys learning, keeping the brain cells active with new challenges and writes on a variety of topics for websites.

 

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3 comments

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  1. Geoff Andrews

    ….. the Rangelands, which cover an astonishing 87% of the land mass of Western Australia.

    Logan, does this mean that 87% of Western Australia is Crown Land?

  2. Anon E Mouse

    So is this why Barnett is trying to close Aboriginal communities down – in a massive land grab to be sold off once Indigenous peoples connection to country has been broken?

    As for Crown land, until the documents proving legal ownership by the Crown are presented, not the land theft docs that they made for themselves, it was and always will be Aboriginal land.

  3. Geoff Andrews

    Anon E Mouse.
    Exactly!
    If the Mabo case had have been brought on in 1850, 95% of Australia would belong to the First Nation and all of the current leasees of crown land would be paying rent to aboriginal communities who would decide the terms & conditions, foe example, of any mining activities.
    State governments would have no control over any land without the approval of the descendants of the original community.
    Even our laws do not confer ownership of someones property on us, if we’ve beaten the living shit out of them and kicked them while they’re down for 200 years.

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