Proposed crackdowns on small scale mining strikes at the core of what it means to be Australian

Dec 14, 2023

The Gemfields at the Central Highlands are a long way from the Hinchinbrook electorate but that doesn’t mean proposed changes by the State Labor Government to radically crack down on small scale mining enterprises won’t have far reaching impacts.

Hinchinbrook resident, Tony Walsh, says that proposed changes by the Queensland Resources Department could force small scale miners to forfeit their mining claims due to strict limits being placed on tenure renewals as well as other tedious and onerous reporting and compliance requirements.

“I prospected the Gemfields north-west of Emerald for well over a decade when the opportunity arose to acquire a lease with all the infrastructure in place to start mining straight away. Both leases are only small 30m x 30m blocks and allow for hand mining only,” Mr Walsh said.

“Hand mining provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, explore nature and create lasting memories with family and friends and maybe also find some amazing sapphires.

“The proposal to cap tenures and destroy any non-compliant structures will have an absolutely devastating impact on the Gemfields Community and this will affect not only people such as myself but more so the people and families who are dependant on these activities for their livelihoods.

“This is yet another example of the erosion of basic rights and privileges that we’ve seen happen across a lot of different sectors in Queensland.

“The concerns these legislative changes are aimed at addressing are already able to be resolved in the current legislation by the Department of Resources enforcing work plan adherence. This could be achieved by Miners simply lodging an annual progress report to ensure the claims are being mined.”

Hinchinbrook MP and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader Nick Dametto said that when he first heard about the measures the State Labor Government was proposing, it really struck a cord.

“It infuriates me to think we could potentially lose something that has long been an integral part of our nation’s identity and is yet another example of the Australian way of life crumbling away,” Mr Dametto said.

“Small scale mining strikes at the very core of what it means to be Australian and dates back to colonial times. Staking a small mining claim and chipping away by hand in the hunt for buried gems embodies the spirit of self-reliance and perseverance that defines the Australian way of life.

“Small scale miners are passionate about what they do, whether they are working the leases to make a full time living, or in Tony’s case, using it as an escape from everyday life and working the fields whenever time permits as a hobby.

“The Government’s reasoning for proposing the stricter measures doesn’t add up. We are told it’s to limit the number of people living on claims without mining them but I can’t see how any small scale miners won’t be impacted by these changes.

“This is just another example of Government forcing residents to jump through hoops so that bureaucrats don’t have to.

“If they suspect people are doing the wrong thing with their mining leases, get those Departmental Officers out of their air-conditioned offices and into the area to do the work and check first-hand what is happening.”

The proposed restrictions would require miners to provide comprehensive financial and technical capability statements, produce a “work program” detailing what their intended activities are, provide extensive reporting and evidence of said activities and satisfy the department that sites are being ‘continuously’ mined.