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Offshore Minerals (Exploration Licence User Charge) Bill 1993

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House: House of Representatives

Portfolio:Primary Industries and Energy

Commencement: Immediately after the Offshore Minerals Act 1994 commences. The Offshore Minerals Act 1994 commenced on the day of its assent, 25 February 1994.


To impose a user charge on the holders of exploration licences issued under the Offshore Minerals Act 1994. The aim of this charge is to recover approximately half the cost of geophysical work carried out by the Australian Geological Survey Organisation in its Continental Margins Program. Further details concerning this program can be found in the Bills Digest on the Offshore Minerals (Retention Licence User Charge) Bill 1993. In the Second Reading Speech, the Minister indicated that the present level of the charge would be zero 1 .


General background on the history of the legislative position governing offshore minerals is found in the Bill Digest dealing with the Offshore Minerals (Retention Licence User Charge) Bill 1993.

In 1993, the Commonwealth enacted the Offshore Minerals Act 1994, (the Principal Act) which is designed to replace the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Act 1981 and its associated Acts 2 . The purpose of the Act is to simplify existing provisions and administrative procedures and introduce new, more effective provisions. The Act preserves the principles of the intergovernmental agreements while giving the States continuing functions over administration of certain parts of the Commonwealth legislation.

Section 35 of the Principal Act specifically states that that Act does not apply to the exploration or recovery of petroleum, maintaining the distinction in the previous legislation.

Section 428 of the Principal Act preserves State laws operating in an offshore area under Commonwealth control.

Part 2.2 of the Principal Act deals with the procedures involving the granting, renewal, duration, surrender and expiry of exploration licences. Section 45 of the Principal Act allows exploration licences to be granted over standard or tender "blocks" in an offshore area. Section 17 of the Principal Act defines a block to be an area of approximately 2 km 2 located according to meridians of longitude and latitude. A standard block is defined in section 19 of the Principal Act as being a block which has not been reserved by the State and Federal Minister. A tender block is defined in section 20 of the Principal Act as a block which is subject to a tender notice under section 74 or section 218. These tender notices call for applications for exploration licences or mining licences over blocks. Section 46 of the Principal Act allows an exploration licence holder to explore for and take samples of minerals in the exploration licence area. The licence holder must also comply with any restrictions in the licence as to what mineral samples can be taken.

Main Provisions

Clause 4 of the Bill imposes a user charge on a exploration licence for each year of the term of the licence, to be calculated in accordance with the regulations, but not to exceed $50,000.

Clause 5 makes a single licence holder liable for the charge, and makes multiple holders of a single licence joint and severally liable.

Clause 6 makes the charge payable one month after the day on which the year of the licence begins.

Clause 7 provides a penalty for late payment of the user charge, being 0.33% of the charge per day. Single licence holders are liable for the penalty, and multiple holders of a single licence joint and severally liable.

Clause 8 makes unpaid charges or penalties debts due to the Commonwealth, recoverable in a court of competent jurisdiction.


1 House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 16 December 1993, p 4274.

2 Such as the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Royalty) Act 1981, the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Exploration Permit Fees) Act 1981, the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Production Licence Fees) Act 1981, the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Works Authority Fees) Act 1981, and the Minerals (Submerged Lands) (Registration Fees) Act 1981.

Marco Bini Ph. 06 2772476

Bills Digest Service 9 March 1994

Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1994.