Environmental regulation of exploration
Exploration in Tasmania is regulated under the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 (MRDA) with Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT) being the authority responsible for the approval of exploration works. MRT rigorously enforce a policy of responsible and careful exploration, with a requirement that all proposed activities be approved, in writing, prior to the commencement of any on ground works.
The Mineral Exploration Code of Practice (MECoP) is an approved Code under the MRDA. It is a standard licence condition that explorers comply with this Code. The purpose of the Code is to provide an outline of the current procedures relating to approvals, to give practical information on the expected standards to be applied to the work and provide advice on a variety of other matters related to exploration within the State.
On Crown Land, work programs are approved in consultation with the relevant land management agency and/or other stakeholders. In the case of private land, the MRDA requires that the owner or occupier of the land be given 14 days notice, in writing, prior to entry onto the property. Explorers are encouraged to contact the landowner and discuss their plans in person, well in advance of the proposed commencement date. Approval is still required from MRT for works on private property.
Protecting sensitive areas
For some land tenure types and in sensitive areas, comment is also sought from an interdepartmental committee, the Mineral Exploration Working Group (MEWG). The function of the committee is to comment on the potential impact that any works may have on the conservation and cultural values of the area concerned and recommend to MRT what in addition may be done in order that these values are not permanently adversely affected.
Issues such as State and Commonwealth listed threatened flora and fauna species, Geoconservation, Aboriginal and European cultural heritage, private conservation covenanted areas, are all investigated during the assessment process. Surveys are regularly requested and site inspections are required where earthworks are proposed. These are commonly arranged as a joint undertaking with the land managers.
The tools we use
In response to the 1997 Regional Forest Agreement, MRT instigated a GIS-based system to record and report on a number of statistics related to on ground activity across different land tenure categories. This process assists in the compliance auditing of the Code and provides a means of tracking each step in the approval process for all work programs including being able to provide some ongoing data relating to the subsequent rehabilitation of areas disturbed.
Security deposits are held to ensure compliance with reporting, environmental and rehabilitation obligations. These deposits are not refunded until such time as outstanding matters, should there be any, are met and the subsequent rehabilitation of any areas disturbed during the course of exploration is deemed to have been successful. Depending on the scale of works and the environment in which this has occurred, this process may take a number of years to finalise.