New tendering processes for both coal and other minerals means junior explorers must approach their applications very differently from the past. You will need a compelling case to have your application prioritised in the new scramble for territory.
In March 2013, the Queensland Government introduced a competitive tender process for the grant of exploration permits for coal. The rationale for the tendering process was to ensure “the most appropriate explorer with a commitment to resource development secures available land for exploration”.
We are now seeing this tendering process being implemented for coal tenures in the Bowen Basin.
At the same time, the government is also using a pseudo tendering process in some instances in some areas for exploration permits for minerals other than coal while still maintaining the general over-the-counter system for these exploration permits
The Queensland Government has called its first ever non-cash coal exploration tender in respect of land in the northern Bowen Basin. The seven areas of available land cover approximately 1,300 square kilometres (approximately 430 sub-blocks).
As the tender process will not involve a cash bidding component, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps has stated that “applicants will be assessed according to their proposed work program and the associated technical and financial capability to meet that work program”.
The lack of a cash bidding component has been described as an “opportunity for junior explorers to make their mark… ensuring land is allocated to those most able and committed to effectively explore for potential resources”.
Under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld), the Minister may use any process that they consider appropriate to decide the call for tenders. Tenders must be submitted before 2.30pm on Wednesday, 5 March 2014. For more information on submitting a tender, click here.
Over-the-counter applications are still the primary application method for exploration permits for minerals other than coal. However, in some instances the Queensland Government has effectively created a competitive tendering process through the strategic use of Restricted Areas.
The Queensland Government has declared Restricted Areas over prospective areas of land and requested that applications for exploration permits over that land be submitted on the day following the repeal of the Restricted Area. This allows the Government to receive multiple applications on the same day and consider and prioritise the applications based on the merits of each application, rather than treat them in the order they were received.
A recent example of such a scenario is the repeal of Restricted Areas 351, 353 and 354 on 28 July 2013, which covered an area of land 400km south of Mt Isa. The Restricted Areas were put in place for several months, which allowed all interested parties time to prepare applications for exploration permits over that land. On the day following the repeal of the Restricted Areas, a number of parties were able to submit applications.
The use of tendering processes for both coal and other minerals means junior explorers will need to approach their applications very differently from the past. Applicant tenderers will need to make a compelling case to have their applications given priority in a new scramble for territory.
Recent changes to the law in Queensland have increased the amount and complexity of regulation of exploration activities. An explorer must now grapple with a wider number of legal issues than in the past and often at an earlier stage of the project than previously.
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