COMMUNITIES across the state can now locate mining and exploration activities in their regions quickly and easily, with the Victorian Government’s launch this week of the ‘Mining Licences Near Me’ web tool.
Minister for Energy and Resources Russell Northe said the easy-to-use web tool, an Australian first, ensures greater transparency for communities regarding industry activity in their region, both onshore and offshore, including minerals, gas and quarries.
“Victoria’s mining industry contributes $6.43 billion to Victoria’s economic output each year and employs more than 7,700 workers across the state. It is important our mining industry has the support and trust of the community to ensure its future success,” he said.
The web tool, available on the Victorian Government Energy and Resources website at www.energyandresources.vic.gov.au, has an easy-to-use Google Maps interface. Users can enter an address or location in the search box or just click on the map to search for activity. The tool shows the owner of each mining tenement, the commodity being explored or produced, and the grant dates for the licence or permit. It is optimised for mobile devices, including smartphones, so it is accessible from anywhere at any time.
As a whole, the map shows a state peppered with licences, the vast majority Exploration Licences, but also some Work Authorities and Retention Licences.
Look up the Foster district, and you see that just east of Foster, Ignite Energy has a licence to explore for base metals, coal (brown and black) and coal bed methane, as well as diamonds, silver and gold. Other licences in South Gippsland include EL5416 around Tarwin Lower, allowing Leichhardt Resources to explore for black and brown coal and coal bed methane; and EL5322, permitting ECI international to search for coal bed methane north of Foster.
The map presents a formidable sight for landholders worried about mining.
However, Executive Director of the Minerals Council of Australia (Victorian Division) Megan Davison has this salutary reminder: “The minerals industry has often used the predictor that for every 1000 exploration sites, only one progresses to mining, and therefore a large area of Victoria is routinely covered by exploration licences with the hope that one of these will discover a valuable resource that if extracted will increase the economic prosperity of Victoria and deliver regional economic growth and employment opportunities.”
She expressed the hope that the web tool will “provide Victorians with the facts on minerals and petroleum exploration and development and reduce the capacity for scaremongering by anti-mining activists”.
“The tool was one of the key recommendations arising from the Economic Development and Investment Committee inquiry into Greenfields Mineral Exploration and Project Development in Victoria,” explained Ms Davison. “It supplements the existing database (GeoVic) which is complex, unwieldy and not at all user-friendly.”
She added: “Licences allocated under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act permit a defined and specific activity – exploration, retention or mining. Communicating the difference between licence types and the activities they allow has been challenging. For example, there continues to be a misconception – inflamed by anti-mining activists – that exploration means a mine will soon emerge at that location. Exploration by its definition means searching for something. It seeks to identify and define a resource and assess its feasibility in geological, financial, environmental and social terms. Only resources that pass these tests progress to either a retention or mining licence.”
Marg Thomas from ‘Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North’ acknowledged that the website was useful and certainly a little easier for people to access than what has hitherto been available. She commented: “The only problem I’ve had with it is that it only lets people know about areas where licences for exploration have been approved, not areas – such as Mirboo North – where a licence is under application.”
“We’d still like to see a clear policy on unconventional gas from our politicians,” she added.
With this in mind, Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North is hosting a policy forum this Sunday, with the aim of giving community members from across Gippsland the opportunity of seeing where local candidates in the forthcoming state election stand on the issues of new coal development, unconventional gas and renewable energy. The forum, which will be run as a free community event, will hear from all candidates on these issues and include a question session to allow those in attendance to have their questions answered. To date attendance has been confirmed by Peter Ryan (Leader of The Nationals), Harriet Shing (Australian Labor Party), Andrea Milsom (The Greens) and Dave Snelling (Australian Country Alliance), and Independents Phil Piper, David Arnault and Christine Sindt.
The forum will take place at 1pm on Sunday 26 October at the Walter J Tuck Reserve (Football Club Rooms) Strzelecki Hwy, Mirboo North.