There is a chance to provide some feedback to MRT about their current prospecting regulations. Apart from this, they do read this forum, and some comments I made recently have apparently stirred up some - potentially welcome - internal debate. If you have issues with current prospecting regulations, perhaps you think some are confusing, or unfair, there is now a good chance to have them heard.
Prospecting is a traditional, Heritage activity, and our ancestors have been looking for the shiny stuff for thousands of years. Much of Australia's prosperity derives from its mining industry, kicked off and spurred on by the humble prospector. That said, respect for the environment is paramount. We are currently allowed to prospect on some reserve types, and they have been nominated as reserves for a reason. Needless to say, filling up your holes and minimising your impact are both important parts of this activity. I need not tell you that many of the places we go to are beautiful, and should remain so, and their beauty is one of the big drawcards of doing this in the first place.
I would start the ball rolling with three issues:
- What is the guiding principle behind what we are and are not allowed to use?
- It appears that hand-digging of material only is the main thing. No mechanical or motorised extraction is allowed.
- Once we've dug this material by hand, how are we allowed to process it?
- Presumably allowed: Sieves, panning dishes, snuffer bottles. Recent change seems to indicate river sluices are ok.
- Unknown: Yabby pumps, highbankers. One could be construed to be outside of the realm of hand-digging (but then so's a shovel), the other uses a pump to elevate water, but all the material put through is hand-dug.
- Outright forbidden: Suction dredges, mechanised digging equipment.
- The main tools people around Australia are currently using to prospect for gold and minerals are: Sieves, panning dishes, river sluices, highbankers (Can we add other mainstream pieces of equipment here?).
- Can MRT please clarify which of these are ok?
- Currently prospecting licences don't allow us to prospect in any Wildlife Sanctuaries, Forest Reserves, Conservation Areas or Nature Recreation Areas.
- However, Conservation Areas or Nature Recreation Areas are usually set up over highly prospective land, and unless administratively exempted (such as through their management plans), are available for mining under the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995.
- Conversely, and adding to the confusion, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Forest Reserves no longer exist. State Reserves and Game Reserves, which do NOT allow mining under the Act, are not excluded by condition #5 on the prospecting licence, and condition #4 explicitly allows prospecting in Regional Reserves, in spite of the fact that some Regional Reserves, such as part of the Lake Pieman Regional Reserve, are unavailable for mining according to the MRDA.
- You can use the "Unavailable Areas" layer in MRTMap to see where mining is and isn't allowed. The wording in the prospecting licence should reflect this information, and instructions on how to access this information should be provided with a prospecting licence.
- We currently must obtain permission from tenement holders before accessing parts of their tenement. This is as it should, but much prospective land in Tasmania is covered by tenement, and the issue of access has cropped up for me several times in the past.
- Some tenement holders will simply ignore requests for access to their tenement, hoping we will go away.
- Section 112 of the MRDA 1995 states that “A holder of a mineral tenement who refuses to give consent for the holder of a licence to prospect on land which is subject to the mineral tenement must give that person written reasons for the refusal” (my emphasis).
- In cases when we get ignored altogether, at what point in time after requesting permission, in writing, can the lack of any answer or acknowledgement be deemed to imply consent to access the tenement?