Material changes are proposed to the tenures under which minerals and petroleum are explored for in Queensland. The Department of Natural Resources and Mines recently released a policy position paper titled ‘Innovative resources tenures framework’ (Reform Policy). Consultation with the industry and interested parties is proposed for September and October 2015. Importantly, submissions on the policy position paper are due 16 October 2015.

Separately, we note the recently altered status of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014 (Qld). As a consequence of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) (Postponement) Regulation 2015 (Qld) (Regulation), the balance of the Common Provisions Act will automatically commence on 27 September 2016 (if not commenced, amended or repealed beforehand). However, the release of the Reform Policy suggests that the Common Provisions Act will be amended or repealed before 27 September 2016.

The Reform Policy proposes to set maximum terms for exploration licences for minerals and petroleum with no renewals and a default relinquishment of 50% of the area at the prescribed time. Under transitional arrangements (to be developed further after consultation) renewals will be limited in duration, there is capacity to opt-in to the new framework and a change to ‘higher tenure’ may alter timelines and processes for projects to be developed in the short term.

We recommend that these reforms be closely monitored against a company’s matrix of tenure, having particular regard to: relinquishment; any long term retention proposals; and development horizons for projects.

Please contact William Oxby, Partner, Brisbane, +61 7 3258 6469, if you require additional information or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.