Coal Tenure Regulation in the Northern Territory

Mr Alister Trier
Executive Director Minerals and Energy
Department of Resources
GPO Box 3000
DARWIN   NT 0801

Attention: Ms Gillian Jan

Dear Alister

Re: Comment – Discussion Paper
Coal Tenure Regulation in the Northern Territory

Thank you for your letter of 27th May and the opportunity to make comment on the above draft discussion paper.

We have reviewed your discussion paper and have incorporated our initial feedback which is general in nature and assumes that the Department of Resources will continue to consult with all key stakeholders, including Minerals Council of Australia NT Division (MCA-NT), as your views crystallise.

As you’re aware the Minerals Council of Australia represents Australia’s exploration, mining and minerals processing industry, nationally and internationally, in its contribution to sustainable development and society. MCA’s member companies produce more than 85 percent of Australia’s annual mineral output.

Northern Territory members comprise more than 100 individual mining, exploration and service support companies operating in the jurisdiction and comprise 25 percent of the Territory’s gross state product, employing more than 4,600 people.

We precede our comments by recognising that the technology associated with identifying and harnessing this underground resource is rapidly changing. New technologies are continuing to evolve and are being utilised to explore and extract resources that were not viable until recently. The rapid pace at which technology is developing indicates that forming legislation based on technique should be considered carefully.
We see the issue is that the same resource (coal and by-products) can be extracted using various methodologies to supply multiple potential markets and proving up the resource raises potential conflict over tenure.

We agree in principle with your views that there should be no conflict in tenure to access coal-based resources with respect to the same deposit. However, we do not fully appreciate your position in relation to a moratorium being placed into effect where (for example) an application for coal under the Mineral Titles Act would create a moratorium for coal seam methane (CSM) and underground coal gasification (UCG) under the Petroleum Act. We therefore seek clarification on the moratorium process particularly if the same applicant sought to assess underground resource potential for both coal and CSM/UCG.

In simple terms our preliminary views are that the rights of “first come/first served” be applied and the basis for the resource extraction and utilisation would be addressed as part of the formal approval process once the resource was proven. We agree in principle that there should not be duplication of tenure over the same area, but the nature of exploration to identify and prove-up underground resources can make this somewhat hypothetical.

Our prevailing concern is that the formal approval process should not be utilised by stakeholders to debate or influence the most appropriate methodology for extraction and specifically the final market for the resource. This would increase business risk and investor uncertainty given the significant differences in extraction technology, methodology, cost and prevailing markets.

In principle we agree with the direction outlined in your discussion paper and look forward to further clarification and ongoing involvement in the process to assist you in working this issue its conclusion.


Yours sincerely,

Peter Stewart
Executive Director

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