Resources Minister Francis Logan has called on mining companies to clean up their act or face losing their tenements, after an examination of exploration sites uncovered widespread environmental and regulatory breaches.
Mr Logan said recent inspections of 56 different exploration sites had found 46 that had breached exploration tenement conditions - an 82 per cent failure rate.
The Minister said the breaches included uncapped drill holes, the construction of exploration camps without approval, excessive clearing for drill pads and access tracks and a failure to rehabilitate these areas.
Some of the breaches had occurred in environmentally sensitive areas of the State.
“This is simply not good enough and I will do everything in my power to ensure that it does not continue,” Mr Logan said.
“The worst offenders will be fined but, if these practices continue, I am prepared to remove tenements from offending companies.
“I have also asked the Department of Industry and Resources (DoIR) to review the level and range of fines for such offences. I need to be convinced they are true disincentives.”
The Minister said fines had already been issued to Golden West Resources Ltd and Hancock Prospecting.
Golden West Resources had been fined a total of $71,500 for a number of offences at mining tenements at their Wiluna West iron ore project, including unauthorised drilling and clearing and the failure to complete rehabilitation.
Hancock Prospecting had been fined $20,000 for the unauthorised construction of a 59-person exploration camp at Roy Hill, 120km north of Newman.
“Another 10 of the non-compliant sites have been issues with direction-to-modify work practices which must be undertaken or the company risks fines or forfeiture,” Mr Logan said.
“The operators of another 26 sites have been ordered to provide written explanations, while the other seven have been issued with verbal instructions to undertake work.”
The Minister said DoIR had referred details of the incidents to the Department of Environment and Conservation to investigate whether offences under the Environmental Protection Act had also occurred.
Mr Logan said he was very disappointed with the blatant disregard of regulations and tenement conditions being shown by some small-to-medium mining companies.
“Mining companies are constantly calling on the State Government to speed-up the exploration approvals process and yet, when approvals are granted, some companies are showing a complete disregard for the environment and blatantly disregarding the exploration conditions,” he said.
“If the industry wants continued access to sensitive areas of the State, then it has to demonstrate a much higher standard of environmental practice.
“I have asked DoIR to work with the mining sector to encourage and strengthen efforts towards implementing effective codes of practice. I also want them to review the resources it is devoting to regulatory inspections.
“The wealth generated by the current resources boom means there is no excuse for poor performance.”
Minister's office: 9222 8950