In documents obtained by Bob Brown Foundation under Right to Information laws, departmental advice presented to Minister Guy Barnett is in stark contrast to the Minister’s account of the reasons for the unlawful grant and subsequent revoking of a mine lease to Chinese state-owned miner MMG.
In a statement on 7 October 2021, Minister Barnett claimed “A lodging error in the application was then found by the Department and immediate action was taken.”
This statement is at odds with a Ministerial Minute released under a Right to Information request that shows that the application did not meet key requirements of section 78 of the Mineral Resources Development Act and was sought for a purpose not under s78 of the Act.
“The Minister has been caught out in his deception. To hide his incompetence in illegally granting a mine lease, he has lied in claiming a lodging error to conceal the extent of his negligence,” said Bob Brown Foundation takayna / Tarkine Campaigner Scott Jordan.
“He should have resigned over his incompetence, but Westminster traditions of Ministerial accountability dictate that he must resign over his deception.”
“The facts in the Ministerial Minute show that MMG applied for a lease they were not entitled to and the Director of Mines recommended its approval despite failing to meet clear legislative requirements. The Minister granted the lease and, when forced to acknowledge the lease was invalid, lied to cover up the details.”
“It appears the only party in this whole debacle to show any understanding or commitment to upholding the integrity of the Mineral Resources Development Act is Bob Brown Foundation.”
“A new Minister should order an urgent review, with a particular focus on improving transparency and accountability.”
Helilog Road was the site of seven months of protest, including seventy-one arrests over May to July protesting MMG’s illegal and unapproved roadworks for its controversial proposed tailings dam in the rainforests north of the Pieman River in the southern takayna / Tarkine.
MMG has indicated their intention to recommence roading and drilling operations. Bob Brown Foundation will answer any re-incursion with renewed protest action.
The Ministerial Minute reveals that:
In reviewing this decision (the grant of the mine lease), after the receipt of the SOR (Statement of Reasons request) from the BBF, it was determined that the decision made to grant the lease under s78 of the Act was invalid.
For a lease to be granted under s78, the applicant must demonstrate to your (the Minister) satisfaction that relevant criteria in s78A, including that there is a sufficient quantity of minerals to justify mining, and that they have an appropriate mining plan. Neither of these conditions precedent were fully satisfied by the application.
MMG indicated that the primary reasons for the application were as follows:
· To secure access from the Pieman Road via Helilog Road to their adjacent Mining Lease ML 6M/2008, for site investigation and potential construction of the South Marionoak TSF; and
· To enable MMG to maintain and upgrade Helilog Road as necessary.
Ministerial Minute – Minister for Resources 23/9/2021 (RTI Document 28)