Publications / Resources

29 Oct 13
Regulatory and approvals issues affecting the NSW resources sector

This Focus alert provides an update on regulatory and approvals issues affecting the New South Wales resources sector. 

Mining lease conditions slashed and application processing times reduced

On 17 October 2013, the NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher announced significant amendments to the standard conditions for exploration licences and mining leases which will result in the removal of conditions that are already covered by obligations under the Mining Act and other mine safety legislation.

If your mining lease is granted or renewed after 17 October 2013 you can expect significantly reduced obligations to be imposed under the new mining lease conditions.  All mining leases granted or renewed prior to this date will continue to operate under the previous conditions that were issued.

Click here for further information. 

The gateway process commences for the assessment of mining and petroleum development

On 4 October 2013, the gateway assessment process for mining and petroleum development on strategic agricultural lands came into effect.  The gateway assessment is an independent, upfront scientific assessment of the impact of new state significant mining and petroleum development on strategic agricultural land and its associated water resources.

If you propose to lodge an application for a mining or petroleum development on specified strategic agricultural land at any point in the future, your application must be accompanied by a gateway certificate in respect of the proposed development, or a site verification certificate that certifies that the land on which the proposed development is to be carried out is not biophysical strategic agricultural land.

A gateway certificate for a proposed development can be issued by the Gateway Panel on a conditional basis and is likely to require the proponent to undertake additional studies to satisfy the relevant criteria for that land.

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Proposed changes to Environment Protection Licences

In September 2013, the NSW Environment Protection Authority released details of the proposed changes to the environmental licensing framework under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 (NSW).  A new risk based licensing scheme is intended to come into effect from 1 January 2015. 

To determine the level of risk associated with your operations, the EPA will review the day-to-day operations at site, the risk of a pollution incident occurring and your past environmental management performance.  If there is a history of poor environmental performance then your operations are likely to rate higher on the risk assessment scale which means you will be more heavily regulated by the EPA in addition to having increased administrative fees.  This includes increased pollutant fee units and increased fees payable for clean up notices, prevention notices and noise control notices.

Submissions to the EPA on the proposed introduction of the new licensing scheme close on 1 November 2013.

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The new Rail Infrastructure Noise Guideline

In May 2013, the Environment Protection Authority released the new Rail Infrastructure Noise Guideline (RING). The RING replaces the Interim guideline for the assessment of noise from rail infrastructure projects 2007.  The purpose of the RING is to streamline the approval process for rail infrastructure projects and protect the wellbeing of communities from the impacts of projects likely to result in increased noise levels.

The RING applies at the project assessment stage to:

  • new heavy, light and non-network rail lines extending beyond industrial sites
  • the redevelopment of existing lines that are in use or disused, and
  • land-use development that is likely to generate additional rail traffic on an existing rail network.

If you are the proponent of a rail traffic-generating development or non-network rail lines you must consider whether your development will exceed the specific noise and vibration trigger levels.  If these noise levels are likely to be exceeded when the rail project is operational, you must consider ‘feasible’ and ‘reasonable’ noise mitigation to reduce the noise impacts towards the trigger levels and address these mitigation measures in your environmental assessment.

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New Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act proposed

Major reforms to Aboriginal cultural heritage (ACH) legislation have been proposed by the NSW Government.  A new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act (ACH Act) will replace Part 6 National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW) (NPW Act) which relates to Aboriginal objects and places.  The proposed ACH Act will maintain the existing provisions relating to Aboriginal objects and places, and will incorporate new provisions relating to cultural values which are not currently recognised in the NPW Act. 

The closing date for public submissions on the reforms is 14 February 2014.

Click here for further information.

New native title claims in the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie

Two new native title claims have been lodged this year over a vast area of the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie.

On 13 May 2013, the Awabakal and Guringai People lodged a Native Title claim which covers an area of approximately 3923 square kilometres, and encompasses parts of the Lower Hunter Valley, Newcastle, the Central Coast, as well as all of Lake Macquarie and its surrounds. This Native Title claim was accepted for registration on 13 June 2013, and was registered on the same day.  If you propose a future act (e.g. the grant of a mining lease) within the area covered by this Native Title claim, you will be required to negotiate with the Native Title claimant before proceeding.

On 19 August 2013, Mr Scott Franks and Mr Robert Lester lodged a Native Title claim on behalf of the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People which is yet to be accepted for registration by the National Native Title Tribunal.  This claim encompasses an approximate area of 11,358 square kilometres including parts of the local government regions of Cessnock City Council, Dungog Shire Council, Hawkesbury City Council, Liverpool Plains Shire Council, Maitland City Council, Muswellbrook Shire Council, Singleton Shire Council and the Upper Hunter Shire Council (excluding areas in which native title has been extinguished).

Click here for further information.

Focus covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. Focus is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication. 

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