Western Australia Minister for Mines and Petroleum Norman Moore
Minister Defends Department Of Mines And Petroleum From Opposition Slur
Victor P Taffa
An Opposition attack against the professionalism and expertise of the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) over the routine renewal of mining leases near Margaret River is unfair and unwarranted.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said today that South-West Region MLC Adele Farina’s questioning of legal advice from the DMP appeared misinformed and designed to deflect attention from the practice of previous Labor Governments.
“Ms. Farina has called for me to seek independent legal advice on an issue that is already well and truly determined by both legal opinion and administrative convention and which relates to my powers under the Mining Act.” Mr. Moore said.
“Her inference is that there is something lacking in the advice provided to me by the DMP’s legal expert and is a professional slur on the ability of that Public Servant.”
In response to a Parliamentary Question last week, Mr. Moore told the Legislative Council that his advice from the DMP lawyer was that he had no discretion to refuse the first 21-year renewal of a mining lease under the terms of the Mining Act.
The Minister had sought the advice subsequent to questions raised about a routine renewal of three mining leases held by Vasse Coal and managed by LD Operations.
“Under the terms of the Mining Act 1978, I have no power to refuse the first 21-year renewal of these mining leases, provided the company has met the specified conditions of holding the lease/s.” Mr. Moore said.
“In other words, the company has a right to have its leases renewed. However, I do have some discretion if and when a second or subsequent renewal of the leases is applied for by the company.”
“I stress that just because a company proposes a mining development does not mean that such a development will proceed.” Mr. Moore said.
“There is an extremely rigorous approvals process – covering social, environmental, heritage, indigenous affairs, planning, water and transport as well as occupational health and safety matters which need to be addressed before a mining proposal can get permission to proceed.”
“At this point in time, the State Government has received no proposal to develop a coal mine in Margaret River.” Mr. Moore said.
“I informed Parliament of this position but it does not appear to satisfy Ms Farina.”
“I note the leases in question were originally granted (when they could have been refused) under a Labor Government during the late 1980’s.”
“The current Opposition did not have a problem accepting and acting in accordance with the long-standing administrative practices of the relevant departments when it was in power.”
“Leases were routinely renewed ‘as of right’ and the system worked well.” Mr. Moore said.
“It is very odd Ms. Farina now appears to find the situation unacceptable and one can only question why she has attacked the professionalism and expertise of DMP Staff.”
“Her allegations appear to be a desperate bid to milk political mileage and media headlines while deflecting attention from previous Labor Governments’ support for the leases and companies involved.” Mr. Moore said.