A PRIVATE member’s bill to amend the Mining Act 1978 to protect Margaret River and other sensitive areas from unwanted coal exploration and mining is scheduled to be debated in State Parliament on Thursday, June 14.
The Mining (Community Protection) Bill 2012 had its first and second readings on Thursday last week. It was introduced into the Legislative Council by Greens candidate for the South West, Giz Watson.
Ms Watson represents the North Metropolitan region but has announced her intention to contest the South West region at the May 9 state election next year.
On Wednesday last week her colleague, East Metropolitan MLC and Greens’ spokeswoman on water, Alison Xamon, introduced another motion into the Legislative Council calling for a moratorium on all “unconventional” gas exploration, including hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.
Ms Xamon is due to speak again next Wednesday on her motion, which calls for a moratorium until a “comprehensive regulatory framework” can be established to manage unconventional gas exploration and protect groundwater.
On Thursday Ms Watson used Margaret River as an example of why her amendment was needed to protect communities opposed to coal exploration and mining.
She claimed “the government is failing to protect the environment and the community of Margaret River from ongoing” coal mining proposals.
The Margaret River community had made its opposition to coal mining plainly known during its successful campaign against LD Operations Pty Ltd’s proposal to mine coal at Osmington, Ms Watson said.
The government and Environment Minister had supported Environment Protection Authority recommendations against LDO’s proposal but “despite this, nothing prevents further proposals being made to mine the coal deposits in the Margaret River region. In fact, further proposals seem likely as the global demand for fossil fuels continues to rise,” she said.
"I understand there are a further 25 applications for exploration licences pending in the region. Therefore, there is continuing uncertainty … and continuing negative impacts on property values and investment, not to mention ongoing anxiety about the security of the region’s water, environment, productive lands and the healthy living that these provide.
“The community would like their (Margaret River and Busselton) councils to prohibit coal mining in their regions. Currently, even if a local authority amends it’s local or regional planning scheme to make coal mining a declared noxious industry the scheme can be over-ridden by the Mining Act.”
Ms Watson said her bill proposed to remove the Mining Act’s power to over-rule planning scheme provisions.
“It doesn’t matter who you talk to on this, they all agree that Section 120 (of the Act) will beat you every time.
“This amendment gives a community the power to reject mining proposals in their local government area through their local planning scheme.”
She said she proposed replacing Section 120 with new provisions allowing mining tenements to be granted only if they are consistent with provisions in any planning scheme in force under the Planning and Development Act 2005.
Draft scheme provisions would also have to be considered, with local councils and the WA Planning Commission able to appeal to the Planning Minister if a mining tenement application contravened scheme provisions and the Planning and Mining Ministers having to agree before the tenement can be issued, she said.
The Bill also proposed extending the Mining Minister’s discretionary powers under Section 19 to exempt any land, not just public land, from mining.
In January Margaret River and Busselton Councils wrote to Premier Colin Barnett suggesting Section 121 of the Mines Act could be amended to put “more emphasis” on other “state bodies” being involved in determining mining tenement applications.
However, Mr Barnett last month rejected that.