In recent years the Department of Environment and Conservation
in Western Australia has acquired millions of hectares of land for
the creation of conservation parks and nature reserves. Many of the
protected areas are afforded the greatest degree of protection as
they are classified as "Class A" reserves due to their
high conservation or high community value. The mining industry has
expressed concern that the reservation of land as "Class
A" reserves will significantly impact on current and future
tenement holders from exploring and mining within these areas.
The reservation of land is the setting aside of Crown land for
the protection and conservation of biodiversity and related natural
or cultural heritage values.
Under section 41 of the Land Administration Act 1997
(WA) (LAA) the Minister may set aside Crown lands
by Ministerial Order in the public interest. It does not include
private land set aside for conservation purposes under a
conservation covenant or similar instrument.
Reservation of land is normally initiated by the
Department's State Land Services branch following community or
Government request, land planning decisions, or as a result of
subdivision of land. Approximately 16% of the State is held under a
reserve of some description.
The Minister for Lands may by order classify land as a
"Class A" reserve. These reserves are the most protected
type of Crown (public) land in Western Australia, as parliamentary
approval is required to amend the reserve's purpose or area, or
to cancel the reservation. Once a class A reserve is created it
cannot be used for anything other than that purpose, unless a
proposal to change the use is laid before both Houses of
The 'A' classification of a reserve is problematic for
the mining industry as there are a number of restrictions on mining
activities within conservation reserves, including:
a mining lease or a general purpose lease cannot be granted
over a class A reserve without the consent of both Houses of
mining can only be commenced in a class A reserve with the
approval of the Minister for Mines and Petroleum and the Minister
for Environment and Conservation.
Despite these restrictions, a mining lease or a general purpose
lease may still be granted on a class A reserve, but in granting
consent, Parliament may impose several conditions on the terms of
Co-existence of mining leases and class 'A'
The creation of a class A reserve over land that is subject to
existing mining leases does not automatically affect mining
activities on that area of land, as those areas are generally
excluded from the reservation.
In addition, areas that are identified as supporting advanced
development projects (i.e. where mining is likely to proceed in the
near future) will have the area of the approved footprint of the
mine site (or in some cases the granted mining tenement) excluded
from the reserve.
Hence, existing mining and petroleum tenements will co-exist
following the change in land tenure but upon the conclusion of all
mining activities and subsequent rehabilitation in that area, the
land may be added to the reserve.
Despite Western Australia enjoying unprecedented prosperity, the
Government is still committed to establishing a conservation
reserve system and it is likely that they will continue to reserve
more land over the coming years. This means that the mining
industry will be faced with more restrictions when prospecting,
exploring and mining in areas with high conservation value.
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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