LANDHOLDERS in high value agricultural areas have expressed concerns about the state government’s introduction of a bill to substantially amend the Mining Act 1971 without further consultation.
Earlier this month, Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan introduced the Statute Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill into parliament.
This followed the Labor government’s review of the state’s mining act and introduction of its own unsuccessful mining bill in November.
Yorke Peninsula Land Owners’ Group chairperson Joy Wundersitz said Labor’s bill “showed they had not listened to the concerns of landowners”.
“We had only one day’s notice that a new bill was to be tabled in parliament after no consultation with farmers,” she said.
“Before the election we were promised there would be a longer consultation process.”
YPLOG considers this new bill to be “Labor’s bill”.
Ardrossan farmer Stephen Lodge said he felt let down by the Liberals, traditionally considered to be a party more sympathetic to farmers.
“Liberals have stepped in where Labor left off,” he said.
Ms Wundersitz said “some minor changes” since made to the November bill did not address their concerns. She said the biggest priority is for farmers to have a right of veto.
Section 9 of the Mining Act 1971 states land is “exempt” from mining if it has been used as a “cultivated field, plantation, orchard or vineyard”.
But section 9AA allows a mining operator to “enter into an agreement … to waive the benefit of the exemption” and if an agreement is not able to be reached, a mining operator may apply to the Environment, Resources and Development Court for an order to waive the exemption.
“We want them to remove 9AA so farmers who say no have absolute right of veto,” Ms Wundersitz said.
Elden Oster, Arthurton, said protecting high value farming land from mining was “the major issue facing farming communities”.
“Everything else is irrelevant if we don’t have the right to farm – genetically-modified crops, prices, everything else goes away,” he said.
The importance of conserving high value agriculture land is obvious, members of YPLOG say, particularly in a season like this one.
Elden Oster, Arthurton, says Australia is facing one of its worst droughts on record, which means the reliance on regions like YP is greater to keep supplying food to the nation.
Pine Point farmer Brenton Davey said preserving agriculture land was key as the world’s population was growing.
“Last time I looked, they’re not producing any more agricultural land but we know by the year 2030 we have to feed billions more people,” he said.
“I have to produce two times what I produce to help feed these people on the land I’ve got now.
“We can’t afford to lose any land to mining.”
Related reading:Farmers urge YP mine action
Ms Wundersitz said there was a “huge imbalance” between mining companies and farmers.
She said one option they would welcome was a proposal put forward by former Australian Conservatives MLC Rob Brokenshire for the establishment of a Mining Ombudsman.
Ms Wundersitz said the government had pointed out some “positives” in the bills, such as increasing $500 support towards court costs to $2500 for farmers, but if a farmer ended up in court, it would cost them considerably more than $2500.
YP farmers are keen to meet with Mr van Hollst Pellekaan to continue consultation.
The Minister said the introduction of the Statute Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill was simply “step one” on a path for gains for both the mining and agriculture sector.
“We’ll move on to engage with stakeholders about the next phase of improvements,” he said.
“The bill was tabled in parliament before the winter break deliberately so all stakeholders would have ample time to consider it.
“I understand both agriculture and mining would have liked additional changes in their favour, but leaders of both sectors have confirmed they have gained valuable improvements.”
Mr van Holst Pellekaan said representatives from both sectors had requested that the process not be started again and risk the improvements already gained.
“While I understand some stakeholders want more, everyone I’ve spoken with has confirmed this version of the act does include improvements for them,” he said.
He said provisions for farmers that came from consultation included a free advisory service for farmers, in addition to more support via the Small Business Commissioner.
“As well as a minister I’m also a country Member of Parliament and will never allow changes to the mining act that disadvantage farmers,” he said.
SA Chamber of Mines & Energy chief executive officer Rebecca Knol said the amendments were a step towards having an act “workable for all stakeholders”.