Miners get 'green light' with passing of bill

Miners get 'green light' with passing of bill

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UNDERMINED: Winery owner Judy Kelly, Woodside, says mining has its place but should be kept out of prime agricultural land.

UNDERMINED: Winery owner Judy Kelly, Woodside, says mining has its place but should be kept out of prime agricultural land.

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THE passage of the Mining Bill through Parliament has been met by mixed responses, with SA-Best MLC Frank Pangallo calling it a "sorry day" for the farming community.

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THE passage of the Mining Bill through Parliament has been met by mixed responses, with SA-Best MLC Frank Pangallo calling it a "sorry day" for the farming community.

The Statutes Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill 2018 was passed in the Upper House late last week, by a margin of 14 votes to seven.

SA-Best MLC Frank Pangallo said farmers will have "prospectors casting a shadow over their future".

"The green light to miners will put more farmers into longer periods of uncertainty and neighbours continue to have no rights," he said.

Another big disadvantage, according to Mr Pangallo, is the increase in penalties from $5000 to $150,000 that can be applied to farmers who obstruct miners in any way.

"The bond situation is as bad if not worse than before in that shelf mining companies with no assets can undertake exploration and then dissolve that company and avoid all rehabilitation and liabilities, unpaid compensation and unpaid damages, often without having a bond lodged with the department and there being no financial safeguards for the farmer," he said.

"Mining companies with a very poor record can continue to access prime arable farming land with no compliance or enforcement."

Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said despite concerns expressed by many farming groups, the new legislation actually increased farmers' rights, while promoting further investment in regional areas.

He pointed to benefits, such as a 500 per cent increase in the money available to landholders to gain legal advice when approached by mining companies from $500 to $2500, increasing the minimum distance between high impact operations and homes from 400 metres to 600m, and guaranteed payments to landowners with new powers to recover unpaid rent from mining companies.

Mr Pangallo said the financial support offered for legal advice was grossly inadequate.

"In every case the mining company can tie up the farmer in court for years and run them into the ground financially," he said.

In general, consultation is about listening and compromise, and there was no compromise. - TERRY STEPHENS

The changes would come into effect next year, following the usual process of lodging regulations and proclamation.

"The first step is to implement the free advisory service for landholders and work on this has already begun," Mr van Holst Pellekaan said.

"I will commence targeted engagement myself before the end of the year, understanding the different pressures of harvest across the state."

He has regularly said this bill was only one step in a series of "improvements" for both mining and agriculture, with more changes to come.

Liberal MLC Terry Stephens, who crossed the floor to vote against the legislation "for the first time in 17 years", alongside colleague Dennis Hood, said the new legislation had the power balanced too much towards the mining industry.

RELATED READING:Balance not right between mines, ag

He said the onus should not be on farming families to "chase recalcitrant junior prospectors through the courts".

Mr Stephens said he had been approached by a number of farmer groups expressing their concerns about the legislation, as he was sure many of his colleagues had, and had spoken with numerous farmers prior to the election.

He said there had been several stories of families "treated disgracefully".

The green light to miners will put more farmers into longer periods of uncertainty and neighbours continue to have no rights. - FRANK PANGELLO

While Mr van Holst Pellekaan said consultation had included "direct engagement" with 70 organisations and more than 500 individuals, Mr Stephens said it was not adequate.

"In general, consultation is about listening and compromise, and there was no compromise," he said.

He said working with the crossbenchers showed there was a will to work together to make improvements.

"It inspired me to think that perhaps next year a number of us could go back to the party room and revisit the issue," he said.

While only six Liberal Party members crossed the floor - four in the Lower House - Mr Stephens said there were a number of others with concerns who had not been prepared to cross the floor at this point, but may be able to provide more support for compromise in the future.

"There is quite a lot of sympathy in the Liberal party," he said.

Mr Stephens said there were a number of issues that needed to be dealt with in the short time before the Christmas break, such as the land tax, so further debate on mining would need to be deferred.

"Next year is another year and none of us who opposed this are going anywhere," he said.

Grain Producers SA president Wade Dabinett remained disappointed that further consultation had not happened, but was buoyed by increased support for an independent review.

He said the one consolation was the establishment of a Mining Advisory Service and called on the government to put this in place quickly.

SA Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive officer Rebecca Knol said the bill was a "positive first step" in modernising the act and supporting an industry that contributed 33pc to SA's exports. She said SACOME would continue to be part of "ongoing reform to the state's mining laws".

SA producer and vineyard owner Judy Kelly believes landholders need better protections against proposed mining developments.

"I'm not against mining, but just don't mine in the middle of prime agricultural land," she said.

Mrs Kelly runs the 9-hectare ArtWine vineyard at Woodside with husband Glen, as well as a large vineyard in the Clare Valley.

The Woodside property is adjacent to the proposed Terramin Bird-in-Hand mine and Mrs Kelly is concerned about the environmental and business-related impacts a mine could cause.

Local producers have raised concerns about noise, dust and the aquifer under the site, saying the operation would not co-exist with the present landscape.

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