This from a press release from Norman Moore, Minister for Mines and Petroleum:
“ The State Government has taken steps to prevent future coal mining in the Margaret River area by terminating all pending applications for coal exploration activities within a 230-square kilometre zone.”
A courageous move by the Minister? Perhaps. Does this mean the Capes region is safe? No, just this 230 sq. km area. Does it mean mining companies can apply elsewhere, and localities cannot ban mining in their jurisdiction but have to meet each expensive challenge? Yes.
We suggest that this is not over.
Greens MP Giz Watson introduced a bill to amend the Mining Act which will be debated in State Parliament this week. "Section 120 of the Mining Act basically states that mining takes precedence over planning instruments, whether that's town planning schemes or regional planning schemes," Giz said.
"We are seeking to remove that section to turn it round the other way so mining applications can only be accepted if they comply with local rules."
In September of 2010, the Premier Colin Barnett said the Government was pro-mining but a controversial and unpopular proposal for a coal mine in Margaret River highlighted a potential conflict of interest.
In response Barnett said legislation would be considered.
"The State Government will give some consideration to special legislation to protect the Margaret River area, perhaps along the lines of legislation that was put in place to protect the Swan Valley," he said.
But, there seems to be a backing away from that and the Greens amendments look set to fail.
The Minister for Mines, Norman Moore, says he sees no need for the change.
"I see little need to consider amendments to the Mining Act to require greater involvement of State Government agencies," he said.
The State Government says it is considering other ways to ensure the assets of the Margaret River region are protected, including a review of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge state planning policy and the South West framework.
The Member for the South West, Adele Farina, says Mr Barnett is reneging on his promise to protect the Margaret River region. She said that Barnetts inaction since 2010 proves it was never his intention to protect Margaret River
Unless there are amendments to the Mining Act every community will potentially be fighting applications for mining one application at a time.
Currently the Section 120 of the WA Mining Act 1978 prevents any local government from prohibiting mining, requiring each mining application to be individually addressed. This means small shires must prepare expensive legal countermeasures in each instance. As seen in
Margaret River this doesn’t only bankrupt local government, but also depresses property values as threats of mining operations threaten to drastically change an region.
Giz’s upper house bill seeks to change that and give local government control of their futures. The bill says:
'...By deleting Section 120 and inserting new provisions tenements will only be able to be
granted if they are consistent with provisions in any planning scheme in force
under the Planning and Development Act 2005.’