Tarkine National Coalition takes state to court over Mt Lindsay mine
Summary: A mining lease in the Tarkine has come under scrutiny, with an environmentalist group takes the state government to court.....
When Paul Harriss was Resources Minister in 2014, he approved Venture Minerals’ lease at Mt Lindsay, in the Tarkine wilderness area.
But the Tarkine National Coalition is arguing that Mr Harriss did so without being cognisant of the application’s finer details.
The Mineral Resources Development Act states that the Minister can only grant an application for a lease if the applicant has an “appropriate” mining plan.
The TNC asserts that, because Mr Harriss only observed a “cut and paste” of the minute of recommendation before approving the mine, rather than a physical copy of the site plan, he was not able to exercise proper ministerial discretion.
This, the plaintiff said, constituted an “error of law”.
Mining leases also require the approval of the state director of mines.
TNC’s solicitors said the defintion of ‘mining plan’ had changed when the legislation was amended in 2013.
They argued that Mr Harriss had done as his predecessor Bryan Green had when approving the Livingstone mining lease in 2012, when the definition had not yet been inserted into the bill.
It was for this reason that TNC’s solicitors posited that Mr Harriss needed to examine the mining plan rather than the director’s minute of recommendation prior to approving the Mt Lindsay mine.
There had supposedly not been “any attention” paid to the change in the legislation.
In the minute observed by the Minister, the site was described as being “near Mt Lindsay, approximately 25 kilometres west of Tullah”.
“The Minister may not even have known where the mine was located,” the plaintiff said.
TNC also mounted the case that Mr Harriss would not have been aware that an apparently insufficient waste disposal system had been devised for the site.
Solicitor-General Michael O’Farrell, however, said lease applications were not constrained by a single definition under the act.
“Nothing would require the Minister to pore over every document … in minute detail,” Mr O’Farrell said.
“A Minister has to be given some credit here.”
He also noted Venture Minerals was a “well-established” company.
Justice Stephen Estcourt will hand down his decision on Friday.