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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2496

Senator KILGARIFF —I direct a question to the Minister for Resources and Energy. It relates to today's Press reports concerning the Government's proposed amendments to the mining provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. Will the Minister elaborate upon his comments in the Press concerning the removal of the right of veto once Aboriginal traditional owners have agreed to mineral exploration taking place upon their land? In particular, how will this assist those companies with existing exploration licences which have not been able to negotiate for mining leases? Will they have to go back to square one and get a new exploration licence under the amended Act in order to get a mining lease?

Senator GARETH EVANS —These matters will become clear later in the afternoon, I hope, when the Bill is introduced, with the leave of the Opposition, which I fully expect it to grant, to provide this important stimulus to mining activities in the Northern cemetery-Freud rides again, but the Territory has been a cemetery to mining activity in the last decade as a result of the difficulties with the present structure of the legislation. We hope to make it otherwise.

There is much to be said about the legislation, but let me confine myself to the specific question asked by Senator Kilgariff. The legislation will provide that miners can choose whether to continue negotiating under their existing licence applications and under the existing regime. If they do not so elect, they will then come under the rubric of the new legislative scheme. If they do come under the rubric of the new scheme a more extended form of proposal will need to be submitted and the mining companies will be given varying degrees of time-extendable at the discretion of the Minister if practical difficulties make that necessary-to make those new proposals and to set in train the new procedures. It will be a matter for each of the mining companies with exploration applications outstanding themselves to determine whether they will be better off by continuing under the present regime-say, if negotiations are well advanced and they think some decision is imminent-or whether they would prefer to operate under the new regime, which I think is likely, certainly in the long run and quite possibly in the short run as well, to give them a quicker solution to their particular problem. There is much that we can debate in detail about this. I will be happy to give the Opposition an opportunity to do just that next week.