The EDO provides a comprehensive overview of the legal regulations around mining in Tasmania in Chapter 11 of the EDO Handbook. Government bodies that are significant include: the Mining Tribunal, the Registrar of Mines, local councils, and Mineral Resources Tasmania.
Mining has been a significant industry in Tasmania, and continues to have environmental impacts. There are two principal activities that fall within the ‘mining’ sector: mining (including exploration) and quarrying. Both activities can occur on public or private land, subject to relevant permissions being obtained.
The primary Acts regulating mining in Tasmania are: the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 and the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA). Environmental impacts of mining are assessed, and regulated, under EMPCA. Planning permits under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 are not required for mineral exploration where a mining lease, exploration or retention licence has been issued.
If mineral exploration proves that there is an economic mineral resource, with sufficient financial and technical resources for exploitation mine, a mining lease may be granted. The mining lease application will be subject to an environmental impact assessment, including public submissions. The applicant must provide a rehabilitation bond and, where the mine is on private property, must demonstrate that a compensation agreement has been entered into with the landowner. Mining leases are generally for 5-10 year terms, and determine rights of access, and land areas to which access is granted.
Objections to mining leases are heard in the Mining Tribunal, but are generally limited to the applicant or persons with a direct interest in all or part of the land which is the subject of the lease.
Once approved, mining operations are required to be conducted in accordance with the Mineral Exploration Code of Practice. Conditions of a mining lease, and any permit issued under EMPCA, must also be complied with – any breaches should be reported to the mine operator, the Director of Mines and the EPA.
Some limited opportunities may exist to also take action where emissions from the mine (such as noise, dust or vibrations) are causing environmental nuisance. For more information, see Chapter 11 of the EDO Handbook.
Quarrying specifically refers to the extraction of construction materials, such as rock, sand, and gravel. Quarries that extract less than 1,000 tonnes of mineral per annum, or 5,000m3 of sand or stone are ‘Level 1’ activities and require approval from the local council (see above). Larger quarriesare classified as ‘Level 2 activities’ and must be assessed by the EPA under EMPCA.
A mining lease may also be required for some quarrying activities, but is not required for the following:
- Quarries operated by the Crown in State forest, for the purpose of supplying materials for road construction within the State forest (these operations must be carried out in accordance with the Forest Practices Act 1985);
- Quarries within a State forest that sell less than 100 tonnes of minerals per year;
- Quarries on private land mined for the use of the landowner, or that sell less than 100 tonnes of minerals per year.
Quarrying activities must be carried out in accordance with the Quarry Code of Practice. Conditions of any planning permit (including conditions imposed by the EPA) must also be complied with. Breaches should be reported to the quarry operator and the local council or EPA (depending on the size of the operation). If environmental harm is being caused, any person with a proper interest can also apply to the Tribunal for civil enforcement orders in respect of the quarry.
For more information, see Chapter 11 of the EDO Handbook.