A Bill which would free up exploration for minerals on private land was tabled in State Parliament last night.
Mines Minister Gordon Hill said the proposed amendments to the private land provisions of the Mining Act, would remove a landowner's power of veto over exploration and mining being conducted on 'broad acre' private land.
However, he said the veto would still apply in situations where the private land:
· was in bonafide use as a yard, stockyard, garden, orchard, vineyard, plant nursery or plantation;
· was the site of a cemetery or burial ground;
· was the site of a dam, bore, well or spring;
· had been 'substantially improved';
· was situated within 100 metres of any private land referred to above, or
· was a separate parcel of land, having an area of 2,000 square metres or less.
The Bill also provides for an independent Private Lands Minerals Tribunal which would make recommendations on conditions of access and determine questions of compensation.
"The current Mining Act prevents exploration and mining from being carried out on private land which is cultivated or used for grazing stock, unless the owner and occupier consent in writing to the granting of a mining tenement," Mr Hill said.
"This veto, which has been in effect since 1970, has had an adverse impact on mineral exploration in this State.
"It has also been of significant economic cost to the rural community, the mining industry and the Western Australian community as a whole.
"In practice, the landowner veto has frustrated exploration in WA in a number of ways, and the inability of either party to refer matters to an independent umpire has not helped the situation," he said.
"This Bill will redress what is a totally unsatisfactory situation - one which is hindering efforts to kick-start the WA economy, through an expansion of exploration activity.
"One need only compare the significant exploration effort occurring in the non-agricultural part of the Yilgarn with the wheatbelt.
"As a result of vigorous activity in the Yilgarn area, new gold and nickel discoveries have been made.
"In contrast, the wheatbelt can boast few new discoveries and this lack of momentum has been of considerable cost to rural communities."
Mr Hill said rural communities could no longer depend on agriculture alone to keep them viable.
He said diversified industries were vital for local employment and the very survival of some country towns.
"These new amendments will not only bring WA into line with other States and will slash the red tape associated with the granting of a mining tenement, but will protect the rights of landowners through the establishment of an independent tribunal which will determine questions of compensation and conditions of access to the land.
"If the Opposition is serious about development and growth in this State, I challenge them to support the Bill wholeheartedly."