Mines Minister Gordon Hill has rejected claims by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies that the State Government was not encouraging mineral exploration in Western Australia.
Mr Hill also rejected the suggestion that exploration in WA was declining.
"AMEC's argument is that exploration activity is decreasing in WA and that other States are capitalising on this - this claim cannot be supported when you consider the amount of money spent by the industry on exploration over the past three years," Mr Hill said.
"Figures supplied by the Department of Minerals and Energy reveal that in 1989-90 the industry spent $311 million on exploration activity in WA; the following financial year that expenditure rose to $323 million. In 1991-92 the figure was reported to be $332 million - a $9 million increase.
"These figures belie claims that the industry is reducing its exploration effort - they reveal instead that there has been a moderate increase in exploration activity in this State."
Mr Hill said that in addition, the major portion of Australian exploration funds had been spent in WA.
"In 1989-90, 52 per cent of all Australian exploration expenditure was spent here; in 1990-91 this rose to 54 per cent. Last financial year, 56 per cent of funds allocated for exploration activity in Australia was reportedly spent right here," he said.
"Of course, I would like to see this expenditure increase even further because it would be a welcome boost to our important mining industry.
"However, I reject the notion that this Government is not doing enough for the industry.
"Just last week, we introduced into Parliament a Bill which, if supported by the Opposition, would free-up exploration for minerals on private land.
"The Bill would stimulate exploration activity in WA by removing a landowner's power of veto over exploration and mining being conducted on `broad acre' private land."
The Minister said other exploration initiatives included:
· the introduction of a `user-pays' survey system, allowing tenement holders to directly organise and pay for cadastral surveys of their mining tenements, rather than have the Department of Minerals and Energy act as a `middle-man';
· the contribution of $3.1 million from the State Budget for a Mineral Research Centre at Bentley;
· introduction of legislation to allow a special prospecting licence to be marked out within an existing mining lease. This measure would help stimulate activity in the Goldfields.
In addition, funds were allocated in the last State Budget to:
· update and modernise the WAMEX database to better suit the needs of the mining industry;
· acquire detailed aeromagnetic data for the Eastern Goldfields region;
· develop a Geographic Information System (GIS) which would assist in the timely and efficient resolution of complex environmental planning and Aboriginal issues;
· release for exploration some of the most prospective acreage on Australia's North West Shelf.
Mr Hill said he appreciated the association's concerns but said many of AMEC's suggestions had already been adopted as part of the State Government's program to stimulate exploration in WA.