Monday, 21 April 2014

FOSI submission on lease notifications and objections

Below is the text of the FOSI submission dated 28 March 2014 to Department of Natural Resources & Mines.

Proposal to change the law relating to mining lease notifications and objections
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission.
Mines have such massive impacts on our environment and communities that it is essential that any person or group can stand up and raise public interest issues, including in an open court. We know from bitter experience this proposal, if implemented, will tip the balance too far in favour of the destruction of the environment by mining companies and cause greater community division. It would be a backward step for the State government to change the law that provides public interest safeguards for the community.
From our own recent experience on North Stradbroke Island, where special legislation has been used to extinguish pre-existing community rights to object to and challenge the renewal of expired sand mining leases in open court, it is fair to ask – are foreign owned mining companies behind this anti-democratic proposal to stop groups and citizens from having a fair say?
The only stakeholder who would benefit from the proposed changes is the mining industry.
For the three reasons below, which we adopt, we absolutely oppose the proposals to limit objection rights to a mining lease to ‘directly affected’ landholders and to effectively restrict objection rights to environmental authority applications to only 10% of mining projects in Queensland:
1.  The reasons put forward for removing community rights to object to mining lease applications are extremely weak and without any proper basis.  This is a reduction in our fundamental democratic right to partake in government decisions that affect us all.
2.  Removing the public notification process for mining lease applications will mean that the vast majority of mining lease applications in Queensland will have no public notification at all.   If this was to become law, then a community may have no idea that mining activities could occur down the road from them if they aren’t ‘directly affected’ landholders.
3.  Limiting community objection rights to “site-specific” environmental authority applications will totally remove existing community participation rights in up to 90%of mining projects in Queensland.
We call on the State Government to adopt a policy position which empowers, rather than disempowers, our communities to take responsibility for our state and stand up for our environment. In Queensland for decades, any person or group has been entitled to object to any mining proposal in open court, to have the evidence scrutinised about the benefits and detriments of a proposed mine.
We request that you do not make the changes but instead keep existing provisions that allow any person or incorporated group to object to all mining leases and environmental authorities. The North Stradbroke legislation’s extinguishment of community rights to object to and appeal against expired mining lease renewals set a bad recent precedent and has caused on-going community division on and off the island. There are often legitimate and soundly based objections to mines, particularly in sensitive environments.  The conventional and fair process to follow in a democracy, is for the courts to ultimately resolve conflicts between the rights of the mining industry and community rights to protect and conserve the natural and/or social environments.

Sue Ellen Carew, President