The Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources recently introduced the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Amendment Bill 2013 (Vic) (the Amendment Bill) into the Victorian Parliament.

The Amendment Bill, if passed, will likely make it more difficult for land to be declared exempt from exploration and mining licences. The Minister will now be required to consider the value of mineral resources (including coal seam gas) before an exemption is granted.

Under the existing Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (Vic) (the Act), the Minister has the power to exempt any land from being subject to a licence granted under the Act (i.e., exploration licence, mining licence, prospecting licence or retention licence). Currently, when deciding whether to grant an exemption, the Minister must take into account ‘the social and economic implications of the decision’.

What will change?
The Amendment Bill would amend the Act so that the Minister would be obliged to take into account ‘the known or potential value of mineral resources on the land and the impact that the proposed exemption may have on that value’ when deciding whether to exempt land from being subject to a licence.

Why?
The amendment has been proposed following recommendations made by the Victorian Parliament’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee in its inquiry into greenfields mineral exploration and project development in Victoria (22 May 2013).

In particular, the Committee had recommended that the Victorian Government develops a land use policy framework to better manage competing land uses in Victoria.

Who will be impacted?
The impact of the proposed amendment is likely to make the Victorian mining legislation more conducive to the development of the mineral and extractive resources industries. In doing so, the changes will be of concern to community groups seeking to apply for mining exemptions to prevent exploration and mining (including in respect of coal seam gas) in their local areas.

The Amendment Bill also contains other proposed amendments to the Act which are aimed at reducing the administrative and regulatory burden on industry, including the introduction of statutory time frames for the processing of licence applications and the streamlining of work plan requirements.

For further information, please contact Myra Stirling, Senior Associate, Liam Hickey, Solicitor or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.