WA govt hits out at federal Coalition’s lack of cooperation on mining lease grants
With just three days until the federal election, Western Australian mines minister Bill Johnston has criticised the federal Coalition for not having the state’s back regarding how mining leases are granted.
“I’ll just give you the example of the Forrest and Forrest decision. We’ve been seeking cooperation from the current federal government and quite frankly we haven’t seen it,” he told Stockhead exclusively on the sidelines of the Latin America Downunder mining conference in Perth.
“I was literally embarrassed when [Attorney General] Christian Porter went in the Fin Review and started making childish commentary about that, which is such a critical issue for Western Australian investment stability.”
In August 2017, the High Court rejected a decision made by the Western Australian Mining Warden that two private miners, Yarri Mining and Onslow Resources, could hang onto their mining leases despite not having submitted a mineralisation report at the time their applications were lodged.
Yarri Mining and Onslow Resources did, however, submit mineralisation reports several months after the applications were lodged, but prior to the Mining Warden’s consideration of the applications.
Under the state’s Mining Act, a mineralisation report is required to be lodged at the same time as a mining lease application is submitted. However, the belief was that the granting of a mining lease was up to the discretion of the state government and the Mining Warden.
The two companies were granted the mining leases, but the move was then contested by Fortescue Metals Group’s (ASX:FMG) Andrew Forrest because the leases overlapped his Mindaroo pastoral leases.
Following several court cases, Forrest eventually won his appeal against the Mining Warden’s decision.
This created uncertainty for Western Australian miners that had secured mining leases in the past few years but had not submitted mineralisation reports at the time they submitted their applications.
The WA government planned to amend legislation to validate any licences that were in question.
However, the Financial Review reported that after the state government received legal advice, it called on the federal government to make changes to the Native Title Act first before it would make changes to the Mining Act.
But federal attorney general Christian Porter told the Financial Review that WA needed to make changes to its Mining Act first.
So the matter ended in a stalemate.
“We would really appreciate a government who took our problems seriously,” Johnston said.