Rural landholders have welcomed a South Australian parliamentary inquiry’s recommendation for the establishment of a mining ombudsman.

Key points:

  • An inquiry recommends the establishment of a mining ombudsman in SA
  • The role would adjudicate disputes between landholders and miners
  • The inquiry looked into the rights of landholders against mining companies

A cross-party committee chaired by independent Frome MP Geoff Brock held an inquiry into the protections for landholders when a mining company wants access to their property.

After hearings on the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas, the committee made six recommendations including the establishment of a mining ombudsman’s office to enforce existing regulations and develop a new code of conduct for exploration.

“At this stage, there is no independent umpire that a landowner can really go to if things don’t go right,” Yorke Peninsula Landowners Group chair Joy Wundersitz said.

Yorke Peninsula landholders line the Yorke Highway at Pine Point.

The Yorke Peninsula has been the scene of protests against mining and exploration.(ABC North and West: Lauren Waldhuter)

The committee also recommended that work begin on developing standalone legislation to regulate access to private land by mining companies, separate to the Mining Act.

“We’ve been arguing for some time that adequate protection of agricultural land cannot be achieved through a mining act, because a mining act is there to push and protect mining,” Ms Wundersitz said.

“By developing a standalone piece of legislation, similar to Queensland and New South Wales, it balances up the debate.

“So there would be a mining act to protect agricultural land … and there would also be a separate piece of legislation that would look primarily and very closely at how to ensure that valuable agricultural land is protected well into the future.”

Dan van Holst Pellekaan wearing a white helmet and orange vest

Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan.(ABC News)

Government agrees reform needed

Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan told parliament on Thursday the government had been open about the need for more reforms in that area.

“We have consistently said that we would make improvements, essentially in bite-sized chunks, to deal with what can be dealt with, put it in place and then move on and deal with the next set,” Mr van Holst Pellekaan said.

The government reviewed and updated its mining regulations and legislation last year.

Minerals ‘belong to the community’

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies defended the right of miners to seek permission to mine or explore on private property.

“I don’t know you necessarily need to establish another organisation to take on a primary role of government,” chief executive Warren Pearce said. 

“I think the department [of mining] can certainly undertake that role effectively, and I think we need a little bit of time to judge how the new legislation’s working.

A proposed copper and iron ore mine is causing controversy on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula

Mining companies say landholders don’t own resources below the ground.(ABC North and West: Lauren Waldhuter)

“They belong to the state and the community and there should be an opportunity to explore for them to see if value can be created and opportunities, both economic and employment opportunities, can be created for the broader community.”

Inquiry backs landholders concerned about mining access
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