South Australia

AMEC hosted the inaugural ‘Breaking Ground’ Policy Forum at PwC Adelaide in March, where members had the opportunity to discuss the outcomes of the controversial Bird in Hand Gold Project (BIHGP) decision with the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport; Energy and Mining, Hon. Tom Koutsantonis MP. This robust discussion also addressed advocacy priorities AMEC has been working with members and government to address, including the need to amend the 18-year mandatory relinquishment of tenure, streamlining approvals and aligning expectations. AMEC has provided government with a range of reform priorities, including targeted reform amendments required to address unnecessary certainty in the legislative framework.  

On 27 April, the BIHGP area was proclaimed by the Governor at the request of the SA Government, under s8 of the Mining Act, protecting it from future mining applications. This mechanism has historically been implemented at Mintabie and Burra. AMEC again worked with our member company through this process, highlighting broader concerns around due process and scientific versus political decision making.

With the South Australian 2023-24 budget fast approaching on 15 June, AMEC has expressed significant concern that Round 4 of the highly successful Accelerated Discovery Initiative (ADI) is yet to be released. The co-funded exploration program is vital to supporting exploration across the state, and was promisingly extended for a further four years and $10M in the 2022-2023 budget. Disappointingly, with less than four weeks remaining in the budget year, this grant has not been released . AMEC provided a substantial budget submission to the South Australian government, highlighting the importance of timely, cost-effective approvals contingent on resourcing capacity and investment attraction in a competitive environment. The availability of co-funding initiatives is crucial to the ongoing viability of the mineral exploration sector in South Australia. AMEC has sought urgent updates from government on the use of the $3.3M that is yet to be released for allocation.  

Other budget priorities are streamlining approvals processes, increasing approvals officer resourcing, prioritising fair land access arrangements for multi-land users, establishing a mining and exploration forum, shifting from Part 9B to Right to Negotiate, and progressing critical minerals opportunities for the state, including a REE (Rare Earth Element) Centre for Excellence and competitive royalty rates.

Following the ongoing Dare, Bilney & Ors v Kelaray Pty Ltd, Premier of South Australia [2022] SASC 91 appeal, on 11 May, South Australia’s Court of Appeals reinstated the previously authorised s23 mineral exploration works at the Murdie Project, at Lake Torrens, under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (AH Act, SA). Following a lengthy legal battle, the initial interpretation is important for explorers and miners with granted and /or pending s23 applications, as it means the requirements to qualify for the initial authorisation were considered to satisfy the requirements of South Australia’s top appeals court. This interpretation should not be taken as legal advice, but serves as a strong indicator of certainty relating to s23’s that has been subject to question since the launch of the appeal against Kelaray’s authorisation in 2021. AMEC is considering the findings, deliberations and overviews presented in the judgement with members, recognising initial assurance has been provided, that the Court of Appeal has found that “the Authorisation granted under s23 did not impair the practical legal operation of the AHA (Aboriginal Heritage Act).”

The Attorney General introduced the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2023 to parliament in mid-May, following a short consultation period. AMEC made a robust submission highlighting prevailing challenges in existing legislation raised by the Kelaray v Dare case, and the need to urgently address ambiguous and conflicting requirements. The draft Bill, was in part, in direct response to the nuances raised in the Kelaray case. AMEC raised the need for a strong due diligence process and the need for statutory timeframes, to ensure project development was not inadvertently halted due to ambiguous drafting. Following the Court of Appeals ruling on 11 May reinstating Kelaray’s previously granted s23 authorisation AMEC again requested a meeting with the Attorney General, recommending the Bill be amended to reflect the outcome of the case and pending s23 applications should not be subject to lengthy delays citing requirement for additional legal advice.

South Australia’s Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act (HREA) Bill was released for a six-week public consultation period. AMEC made an initial robust submission to the Issues Paper. AMEC has again sought a member briefing with government and will be outlining the need for an effective multi-land use framework that duly considers the nature of mineral exploration across South Australia.

AMEC has made the following submissions on behalf of member companies:  

To learn more please contact Samantha Panickar on 0423 914 249.

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