Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
The regulatory regimes governing uranium exploration and mining
differ across the states and territories of Australia. While
exploration for uranium is permitted in the Northern Territory,
South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, in Queensland only
exploration is permitted, and in New South Wales and Victoria
exploration for and mining of uranium is prohibited. On 16 February
2012, the coalition Government of New South Wales introduced draft
legislation into the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, being
the Mining Legislation Amendment (Uranium Exploration)
Bill (the Uranium Exploration Bill), to
remove the ban on uranium exploration in New South Wales.
Background and legislation and regulations affected by the
Uranium Exploration Bill
The introduction of the Uranium Exploration Bill follows a
request made by the Commonwealth Government to the Governments of
New South Wales and Victoria to review the prohibition on uranium
exploration and mining under their respective laws.
Under the Uranium Exploration Bill, the prohibition on uranium
exploration, which is found under the Uranium Mining and
Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986 (NSW)), will be
removed and consequential amendments will also be made to the
following three pieces of legislation:
Mining Act 1992 (NSW);
Radiation Control Act 1990 (NSW); and
Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW).
The Uranium Exploration Bill also includes proposed
consequential amendments to the Mining Regulation 2010 and
State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production
and Extractive Industries) 2007 (the Mining
The Minister for Energy and Resources, Chris Hartcher, noted in
his speech introducing the Uranium Exploration Bill to the
Legislative Assembly that permitting exploration for uranium will
enable New South Wales to determine the extent of any uranium
resources within the state.
Key changes proposed under the Uranium Exploration Bill
The key proposed changes under the Uranium Exploration Bill are
all uranium in New South Wales will vest in the Crown and no
compensation will be payable for that vesting;
exploration licences and associated permits granted under the
Mining Act 1992 (NSW) will be permitted for exploration
uranium will relevantly be a mineral for the purposes of the
Mining Regulation 2010 (NSW);
no authorisation, other than an exploration licence or an
environmental assessment permit relating to an exploration licence
in respect of uranium, will be permitted under the Mining Act
1992 (NSW); and
the Mining SEPP will be amended to cover uranium so that
development for the purposes of exploration for uranium will not
require development consent under Environmental Planning and
Assessment Act 1979 (NSW)(EPA Act)
but will be subject to the environmental assessment processes under
Part 5 of the EPA Act.
It should be kept in mind that under the Uranium Exploration
the grant of any authorisation other than an exploration
licence for uranium or environmental assessment permit relating to
an exploration licence for uranium will be restricted; and
there are no provisions which provide for the conversion of an
exploration licence for uranium into any kind of assessment lease,
mining lease or other similar title.
Consequently, while the Uranium Exploration Bill, if ultimately
passed, may stimulate uranium exploration activities in New South
Wales, as the proposed regulatory framework stands, there is a
significant degree of uncertainty as to the extent to which a
holder of an exploration licence for uranium would ever be able to
progress to mining operations in the future.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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It is a common misconception that the grant of mining tenure, whether it be an Exploration Permit, Mineral Development Licence or Mining Lease, will entitle the holder to access all land within it in order to explore or mine.
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