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Speech: Private Mines Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:45): I rise to briefly speak in support of the amendment to the Mining Act 1971 put forth by my colleague the Hon. Robert Simms. This bill seeks to impose similar regulations on private mines as exist for public ones and to address the legal protections enjoyed by private mines.

As it currently stands, private mines are given far too loose a leash under the Mining Act. The 222 private mines in our state, 186 of which are currently active, are held to a different standard of environmental impact than the rest of the mines in our state are. This means that private mines are exempt from any legislated responsibility to account for existing or permissible land use, geological heritage value or the aesthetic and cultural value of an area.

It is absolutely shameful that antiquated private mines in the 21st century not only continue to exist but continue to be held to different legal standards—lesser legal standards—than public ones. It should not be seen as permissible for a public mine to expand right up to the edge of someone's neighbourhood, so why should it be different for private mines?

When the White Rock Quarry expansion was being proposed, members of the community voiced their rightful concern and outrage. Their quality of life was being directly impacted by the quarry being in such close proximity to their homes. There were health concerns, as the quarry produces respirable crystalline silica, or RCS, which is known to cause silicosis. Bear in mind that according to the Cancer Council, there are no safe levels of RCS inhalation. Furthermore, the impact of this quarry on the surrounding environment has been lamented by those in the community, especially as it was discovered that 7.5 hectares of the land used by Hanson is actually part of a conservation park.

Faced with the evidence of a proposed expansion's damage to residents' health and to the surrounding environment, this upper house agreed to reject expansion plans for the White Rock Quarry 'until residents, the government and the Environment Protection Authority can be assured there will be no impact on the nearby natural environment and community amenity'—to quote this council. But this is not enough. Opposing Hanson's expansion plans for the White Rock Quarry does not do enough to address the crux of the issue: the fact that these mines are setting the precedent to expand right up against housing, a precedent that is allowed through the current legislature.

When Hanson resubmits their mining operation plans, the Greens want to ensure they are being held to the same environmental standards as any other mining company would be. For far too long the argument that private mines predate the residential areas that surround them has been made to justify the incursions of private mines upon South Australians and to prevent any change to their legal advantages, as if their age should remove these mines' accountability. To the people of South Australia, the right to a clean, safe environment and community should be paramount.

The bill my colleague has put forth does not seek to put an end to private mines. Rather, it seeks to put them on equal footing with other South Australian mines and to keep them accountable. This is opposed to the current antiquated system which has opted to arbitrarily afford these mines with lesser levels of regulation. We ought to be amending the section of the Mining Act that enshrines the ability of private mines to impede upon the surrounding community, right up to our back doors. This bill provides community interests and the environment with protection, and it simply makes sense to have public and private mines be both held accountable and held accountable to the same standards as other mines.

I note that the opposition has lamented the lack of time to set up a select committee that perhaps might better enable their support. Well, I note that yesterday in the other place the Labor Party and the crossbenchers set up a select committee. Indeed, yesterday in the other place we saw powers given to the Presiding Member to use the powers only currently available to government to extend our sitting days.

If rumours are to be believed we are not in the last two weeks of sitting before the state election at all. We have just seen a select committee set up for what I would call somewhat political reasons. Why are we not able to see a select committee set up now for the Labor Party to investigate this very important issue, an issue they have just informed us they have every interest in supporting should they have more information?

Indeed, we have just seen the clock that was ticking down wound back to allow for more time for this and other important issues to be debated properly by this parliament—particularly should we be coming back in February—so that these residents, these private mines and these very important issues do not have to wait until April next year before the Labor Party takes them seriously.

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