Role of Government

Department of Mineral Resources Position

After consideration of the written and oral evidence put before the Inquiry, the Department of Mineral Resources submits that the interests of the State of New South Wales and of the environment of the Wingecarribee Swamp itself are best served by the renewal of mining leases 567 and 568 subject to a new, detailed and rigorous set of conditions of lease designed to secure net environmental benefits for the Wingecarribee Swamp and to ensure that future mining activities reach the highest environmental standards...

The Department of Mineral Resources is concerned that a failure to renew Mining Leases 567 and 568 would have adverse and serious implications for the mining industry in New South Wales. The inevitable result of failure to renew the leases would be the closure of a mine which has been in continuous operation for a period in excess of 30 years.

Mining operations routinely have a mine life which extends beyond the initial term of their mining lease. Investment decisions are based on the ready availability of renewals. There exists within the mining industry a widely held expectation that a lease renewal will be available to an applicant which complies with conditions of the lease and of the mining legislation. If these leases are not renewed the result will be an industry wide reassessment of New South Wales' attractiveness as a State in which to explore and develop resources. Mine operators would be obliged to seriously consider the need to amortise the life of any mine over the term of the initial lease.

Further, a decision made on this basis would encourage the making of many further challenges to renewals of existing leases. It would be a major and adverse development for the proper use of mineral resources in this State if renewal applicants were to be put through a similar process to that which new mines must undergo. Yet that is a likelihood if opponents of renewal are successful in this case.

The effect of a decision not to grant a renewal may be that some mineral deposits would not be developed because the return on investment over the initial term of the lease would not justify the investment and because the additional risk of a failure to renew would significantly impact on what is already a high risk investment area.

The closure of the mine would effectively close the peat mining industry in New South Wales with the flow on effect of the loss of eight jobs and downstream adverse economic impacts on businesses supported by the mine.

It appears likely that substantially the whole of the current production of the mine would be substituted by imported peat... It also follows that Emerald Peat's production is the significant import substitute. When this evidence is put together with Mr Oakes' comments about the unique quality of Wingecarribee peat and the great difficulties in starting a new mine, we submit that the Inquiry should conclude that the consequence of not renewing the leases will be that the whole of Australian peat usage will be imported and an import substitution industry will be wiped out.

We submit that the Inquiry should find on the basis of Mr Ramsland's written and oral evidence that:

  • The applicant has complied with the conditions of the earlier leases.
  • The applicant has complied with the formal and procedural requirements of the renewal procedure.

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Department of Mineral Resources, Submission to Inquiry into Renewal of Mining leases 567 and 568 at Wingecarribee Swamp, 1997.


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