Australia Divided on Mining Bans and Regulations
On Monday, August 15th, the Queensland government announced a ban on exploration and mining within 2 km of urban areas. An urban area is defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as greater than 1000 people. The Queensland government has advised that this regulation was put in place to provide certainty and security to residents of the state and cites the main concern as providing balance between industry, environment, and the people who live and work in conjunction with mining regions. As this regulation is meant to protect urban citizens, the provision also allows communities the choice to decline the ban’s protection if they would prefer the business from mining and exploration ventures.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies has advised that they believe the government should consult with mining companies and landowners to discuss and build flexibility in the policy. Simon Bennison, Chief Executive of the association stated, “mining has successfully coexisted with agriculture and urban areas for more than 100 years, and this can and must continue.” Queensland is the world’s largest producer of exported sea-borne coking coal, with Bowen Basin accounting for producing almost 40% of this resource that is used for steel production. Local miners are petitioning the ban, as this will currently affect over 285 permit holders.
Other Australian states are hesitant to apply such strict restrictions to the booming coal mining and exploration industries. However, discussions have occurred regarding raising environmental standards pertaining to the mining industry. New South Wales has advised that it will be setting a moratorium on the fracking process used in Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining that will prohibit the use of toxic chemicals. While Queensland is currently setting the most stringent regulations, all of Australia is focused on safety in the mining and exploration industry.