The Mining Warden has put WA's so-called exploration tenement "hoarders" on notice that some of the industry's worst practises will no longer be tolerated, recommending Mines Minister Bill Marmion refuse to grant applications for a group of exploration tenements north of Kalbarri on the grounds it was contrary to public policy.
Junior explorers have long complained that large swathes of WA have been locked up by companies and prospectors that game the Mining Act, costing others the opportunity to explore and the State Government millions in lost revenue from rental and licensing fees.
One of the most notorious practises involves abandoning a tenement application before it is granted by the Department of Mines and Petroleum, only to immediately re-apply for the same ground. The manoeuvre keeps land unavailable to competitors at little or no cost to the hoarder, as minimum exploration spending requirements apply only to granted tenements and any prepaid rent is returned when an application is dropped.
But in a late-November decision industry insiders say could help end the practise, Wardens Court Magistrate Kevin Tavener said it was contrary to the public interest and a breach of ground turnover policy implicit in the Mining Act.
Ruling in favour of objections lodged to a group of tenement applications made by Eaglefield Holdings, a privately held company of former Energy and Minerals Australia director Mike Fewster, Mr Tavener said use of the loophole had allowed Mr Fewster to hold a large area of prospective ground since 2007 through a number of companies at almost no cost.
Mr Tavener said evidence had been presented the process had saved companies associated with Mr Fewster about $500,000 since 2007, an amount he said had not been disputed in the Wardens Court.