28th April 2020

Context

Mining, Exploration and Geoscience (MEG), formerly Division of Resources and Geoscience, is aware of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on industry and the wider community. It is important that MEG responds appropriately to ensure that industry is supported throughout this time to promote resilient economies and strong key regional communities. MEG’s response involves adjusting application requirements, deferring payments, and other measures all designed to help industry be effective during this period of hardship.

Ongoing commitment to service delivery

Regulatory processing delays represent an area of administrative burden for industry. MEG has established service delivery standards to provide greater certainty and allow industry to manage operations and deadlines around the expected waiting times. MEG recognises the ongoing importance of maintaining these service delivery standards and will continue to focus on them being achieved.

As the effect of COVID-19 on the community and the industry is evolving, MEG will continue to monitor the situation and will reassess its position and support over the next few months, however no later than 1 October 2020.

Proposals

  1. Deferment of payment for new Exploration Licence and Assessment Lease grants

    The NSW Government recognises the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and mineral explorers. To support mineral explorers at this time, there will be a six month grace period for the payment of the administrative levy, rental fee and security deposit for all Exploration Licences Applications (ELA) and Assessment Lease Applications (ALA). The licences/leases will be granted once all fees and securities have been collected.

    Defer payments

    • Extension of payment date for Annual Administration Levy for Grant by six months
    • Extension of payment date for Annual Rental Fees for Grant by six months
    • Extension of payment date of security deposit for Grant by six months

    Should the titleholder request the title to commence sooner than six months (assuming the titleholder has paid the Annual Administration Levy, Annual Rental Fees and Security), they may do so by written request to Mining, Exploration and Geoscience at resource.operations@planning.nsw.gov.au.

  2. Deferred commencement date for newly granted exploration licences

    For any Notices of a Proposed Decision (NOPD) to grant a new authority issued from 1 April 2020, MEG will incorporate a six month extension period before the grant commences (currently 10 days is provided to make representations regarding the proposed decision). This would provide the titleholder with an increased timeframe to make representations regarding the proposed decision and resulting authority conditions. Should the titleholder request the title to commence sooner than six months (assuming the holder has paid the Annual Administration Levy, Annual Rental Fees and Security), they may do so by written request to Mining, Exploration and Geoscience.

    Payment extensions for current titles

    For existing mineral exploration licences, an automatic six month grace period will be afforded in relation to the payment of Annual Administration Levy and Annual Rental Fees.

  3. Native Title

    MEG recognises that COVID-19 may affect the usual Right to Negotiate processes that apply under the Native Title Act 1993. MEG notes that this is a national issue and will work with the relevant bodies to identify the most appropriate path forward that meet the requirements of the Native Title Act 1993, industry and Native Title groups.

  4. ELA notices in local papers

    A number of local newspapers have ceased production due to the COVID-19 situation. The Mining Act 1992 and Mining Regulation 2016 requires applicants for an Exploration Licence, Assessment Lease or Mining Lease to publish a notice in a State-wide newspaper and at least one newspaper circulating in the locality of the proposed authority.

    In the event that a local newspaper has stopped production from 1 April 2020, the requirement for applicants to submit a notice in the local newspaper will be replaced by the requirement to publish notice of the application in The Land newspaper. This meets the spirit of the requirement to alert the public of the application as soon as possible, particularly in regional areas.

    It will be the responsibility of the applicant to determine if a local newspaper has ceased production in the area relevant to the application. If so, the applicant will be required to place the required notice of the application in The Land newspaper. In accordance with the Mining Act 1992, the applicant still has the requirement to publish a notice in a State-wide newspaper.

  5. Recognising impediments to exploration

    MEG recognises that COVID-19 is affecting access to credit and additionally, the social distancing measures introduced across NSW to minimise the impact of COVID-19 are likely to affect the ability of explorers to gain access to land and carry out approved exploration programs. As a result, MEG will make COVID-19 an extenuating factor for the purposes of the Renewals policy for the next 12 months to acknowledge that approved work program commitments may not have been be carried out. COVID-19 will also be an extenuating factor when considering special circumstances renewal (i.e. renewal of >50% of the licence area).

    Explorers will still be required to update their work programs annually (through the existing annual reporting process) to reflect the changed circumstances. Annual reporting obligations continue to apply but information within the reports will need to reflect the changed circumstances.

  6. Implementation

    Regional NSW will provide further details regarding implementation and transitional arrangements through a dedicated COVID-19 response page on the MEG website. https://www.resourcesandgeoscience.nsw.gov.au/info/covid-19-response

For further information

For further information, please contact Mining, Exploration and Geoscience, Regional NSW on:

Phone: +61 2 4063 6600 Email: resource.operations@planning.nsw.gov.au

Table 1. Key Measures

Item

Existing Process

New Process

Comments

1. Deferment of payments for new EL and AL grants

   

Annual Administration Levy

  1. New grant
  2. Existing titles

Prior to grant

Invoiced at grant anniversary

Six months after Notice of Proposed Determination (NOPD) unless an earlier date is advised otherwise by titleholder.

Six months extension automatically afforded.

 

Annual Rental Fee

  1. New grant
  2. Existing titles

Prior to grant

Invoiced at grant anniversary

Six months after NOPD unless an earlier date is advised otherwise by titleholder.

Six months extension automatically afforded.

 

Security deposit (grant only)

Prior to grant

Due six months after NOPD unless an earlier date is advised otherwise by titleholder.

No surface disturbance activity allowed during this time.

Increase in security deposit (existing titles)

42 days from notice of variation of security deposit condition

No change unless payment plan or extension is approved on a case by case basis.

 

Commencement of new EL or AL

28 days or more after NOPD

Six months after NOPD unless advised otherwise by titleholder.

 

3. Native Title

   
 

Notifications for the right to negotiate (s29 future act notices) in accordance with the Native Title Act 1993.

This is a national issue and we will work with the relevant bodies to identify the most appropriate path forward that meet the requirements of the Native Title Act 1993, industry and Native Title groups.

 

4. ELA and ALA Notices in local papers

   
 

Applicants for an Exploration Licence, Assessment Lease or Mining Lease to publish a notice in a State-wide paper and at least one newspaper circulating in the locality of the proposed authority 45 days after lodging an application.

The requirement for applicants to submit a notice in a local newspaper where the newspaper production has ceased will be waived until the COVID-19 pandemic has ceased.

The applicant will still have the requirement to publish notice of any such application in a State-wide newspaper.

5. Recognising impediments to exploration

   

Renewals policy

Make COVID-19 an extenuating factor for the next 12 months for the purposes of the renewals policy (i.e. reason for not carrying out the work program)

Currently this is not an extenuating factor in the renewals policy so holders may have their applications refused if exploration has not fulfilled the renewal criteria within the policy.

COVID-19 will be an extenuating factor for the next 12 months. This will mean that COVID-19 will be an extenuating factor when considering whether the commitments in the work program have been met. In addition, COVID-19 will be an extenuating factor in the context for seeking special circumstances renewal.

Limited supporting information must be provided by the titleholder.

Work program and reporting

Work program and Annual reports to be submitted annually and include all relevant geological information.

Update work program annually (existing process) to reflect changed circumstances due to COVID-19.

Annual reporting obligations continue to apply but reflect changed circumstances.