Proposed changes to mining claims

The Queensland Government supports the small-scale mining sector and the benefits it brings to many regions. However, a more effective system for regulating and administering the small-scale mining sector is needed.

The draft Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan (QRIDP), proposed to remove mining claims from the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (the Act).

After considerable feedback and consultation with stakeholders on options for small-scale mining reform, a decision has been made to retain mining claims in the Act.

We are also proposing changes to the current regulatory framework to make it more effective and efficient. The details about these changes are included in the discussion paper: An enhanced regulatory framework for mining claims (PDF, 4.3MB).

Consultation has now closed and feedback is being considered.

Moratorium lifted

The moratorium on new mining claims ended on 24 November 2022.

New mining claim applications can now be lodged and will be assessed under the existing regulatory framework.

Why the government has decided to keep mining claims

We received significant feedback on the proposal to remove mining claims. Many of the submissions did not support the removal of mining claims, but supported changes to the existing regulatory framework to make it more effective.

We also received feedback regarding the value that small-scale mining brings to regional communities, including mining-related tourism, particularly in the Gemfields region in the Central Highlands and the Winton and Quilpie shires, where the opal industry contributes significantly to the local economy.

Why changes to mining claims are required

The current regulatory framework for mining claims has several issues, which were raised during consultation on the proposed small-scale mining reforms.

These include for example, the cost to taxpayers for administering the sector, unclear regulatory requirements, and the use of mining claims for purposes other than mining and other compliance matters.

Addressing these issues will help to support genuine small-scale miners and improve the sector so it continues to benefit local communities.

The discussion paper (PDF, 4.3MB) provides details of the proposals to enhance the regulatory framework for mining claims.

What an enhanced regulatory framework means

Enhancing the regulatory framework means we are proposing a range of improvements to Chapter 3 of the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and to other administrative materials that relate to mining claims, such as the small-scale mining code and the security calculator.

The proposals are outlined in the discussion paper (PDF, 4.3MB) and are intended to address the current issues with both hand-mining and prescribed mining claims.

How the proposals were developed

We received significant feedback during consultation on the small-scale mining reforms proposed in the QRIDP, including:

  • 46 survey responses in relation to the draft QRIDP
  • 105 QRIDP small-scale mining survey responses and an additional 350 survey responses from the Queensland Small Miners Council
  • 54 written submissions from small-scale mining stakeholders
  • feedback via 2 online Q&A sessions.

We have also held meetings with key stakeholders to talk through concerns as well as ideas and suggestions to improve the current framework for mining claims.

This feedback helped inform the development of the discussion paper (PDF, 4.3MB) which proposes a range of options to enhance the current mining claim framework.

Consultation on the discussion paper closed on 24 February 2023. Feedback on the discussion paper is now being considered and will be used to refine the proposals.

What is being proposed to enhance the mining claim regulatory framework

The discussion paper (PDF, 4.3MB) focuses on 3 key objectives:

  1. Ensuring effective regulation.
  2. Supporting genuine small-scale mining operations.
  3. Addressing non-compliance.

We're proposing enhancements to:

  • make the regulatory settings contemporary, efficient, effective and fair and address problems with existing fees and charges, application requirements for small-scale miners and the terms of mining claims.
  • provide greater clarity in the regulation of mining claims to better support genuine miners, including having clearer requirements for mining claim holders, providing evidence that mining activities are being undertaken and improving coexistence between landholders and mining claim holders.
  • enhance compliance activities undertaken by the government in order to reduce potential costs to taxpayers, and risk to the government of having to clean-up abandoned sites to address non-compliance concerns.

Existing mining claims and new applications

During consultation on proposed improvements, existing mining claim holders can continue to operate under the current framework.

If adopted, the proposed changes to the framework would impact existing and future tenure holders. The transition to the new framework will be conducted in a transparent and thoughtful manner with guidance materials and information available to all new and existing mining claim holders.

Gemfields planning study

The planning study is a blueprint that will look at all aspects of the Gemfields – it will shape the direction for change and growth, while protecting and preserving the region.

The study is being led by the Central Highlands Regional Council and supported by the Queensland Government. The council has established a community and stakeholder project reference group, who will work with the community on the development of this study.

While potential changes to small-scale mining will be taken into account, the study is a separate project that will look at the challenges and opportunities affecting the Gemfields' communities more broadly.

Next steps

  • Public consultation to seek feedback on proposals to enhance the regulatory framework for mining claims closed on 24 February 2023. Read the discussion paper (PDF, 4.3MB).
  • All feedback received during consultation is now being considered.
  • If a proposed change to legislation is required (pending government decisions), there will be further consultation with stakeholders on the preferred approach and arrangements for existing mining claims.

View the Small-scale mining roadmap (PDF, 530KB) for more details.