Know your landholder rights

Eyre Peninsula landholders have been left wondering what the recent Iron Road mining lease and development approval for its proposed mine at Warramboo and the associated rail corridor to Cape Hardy means for them. 

We have answered some recurring questions below.

What does the approval allow Iron Road to do?

Iron Road has sought the following approvals:

  1. A mining lease for an open cut magnetite iron ore mine and processing plant pursuant to the Mining Act 1971.
  2. Development approval pursuant to the Development Act 1993 for a deep water port facility in the Spencer Gulf; a rail line from the mine to the port; a water supply borefield; electricty infrastructure; and an accommodation village located at Wudinna.
  3. Commonwealth environmental approval pursuant to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 regarding potential impacts on Southern Right whales in the Spencer Gulf.

The mining lease was granted as sought for 21 years.

Iron Road has to preapre a Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation by May 2, 2018, unless an extension is granted.

The development approval was also granted. This included requirements realting to the rail line corridor, one of which is that it is required to be fenced for its entire length.

What are the rights of those directly impacted by the mine?

It is important to note that the grant of the mining lease does not authorise prospecting, exploring or mining upon any exempt land unless or until the benefit of any exemption is waived by the landowner under the mining act.

Land is exempt land where, among other things, it is used as a yard, garden, cultivated field, plantation orchard or vineyard; or it is situated within 400 metres of a building or structure used as a place of residence; or it is situated within 150m of a building or structure with a value of $200 or more, used for an industrial or commercial purpose within 150m of a spring, well, reservoir or dam.

If your land is exempt land (as most agricultural land will be) and you do not agree to a waiver, Iron Road can apply to the Environment, Resources and Development Court for an order waiving the benefit of the exemption. 

To obtain the order, Iron Road must show that any adverse effects of the operations can be appropriately addressed by conditions. 

If you are to be impacted by the mine, the mining act provides you with the ability to obtain compensation where the land is to have mining carried out upon it.

In some cases it is also possible for you to apply to the court for orders requiring the mining company to acquire the land if the mining operations will substantially impair your use and enjoyment of the land. 

What are the rights of those directly impacted by the proposed rail corridor?

For those not directly impacted by the mine but impacted by the proposed rail corridor, Iron Road will need to enter into discussions with you regarding the use of your land.

The approval does not give any authorisation for Iron Road to compulsorily acquire your land. That process is dealt with under other legislation.

Legislation is required to give the authority to acquire land to enable the construction of a railway. It is not yet clear how this will be achieved.

There is an act presently in place which deals with the operation and access for railways. It may be that this will be used to enable the rail system to proceed. 

Another act provides a system for objections to land acquisition and for the payment of compensation where land is acquired. 

When the issue of compensation arises, it is important to obtain independent valuation and legal advice.

This article first appeared in The Stock Journal on Thursday 9 June 2017. For further information, please contact Tim Mellor or Anthony Kelly. 

Practice Area: Farm Law , Environment, Mining & Resources

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