The Northern Territory’s mining history began shortly after the southern Gold Rush – with gold discoveries throughout the 1960′s around Tennant Creek and with much larger gold deposits discovered in the 1970′s closer to Darwin.
The NT is maybe better known for it’s uranium mines at Alligator River and Rum Jungle - one of Australia’s most notorious legacy sites which is still heavily polluted and is still costing the Commonwealth Government millions. The NT’s history has also been dominated by public opposition to uranium mines. Traditional Owners have managed to close two significant uranium deposits at Jabiluka and Koongarra in the Kakadu National Park.
Some of the NT’s biggest mines have been manganese, lead, zinc, gold and uranium mines. The NT has also had a host of smaller diamond, iron ore, rare earths, tin and mines.
The NT has been criticised for not having recorded information on mine sites. There is no database of the location, mine type, commodity, commodity size or mine footprint. There is almost no data on legacy mines in the NT.
The Department of Mines and Energy (DME) NT has made moves to address the issue of identifying and rehabilitating legacy mines by establishing a Mining Remediation Fund introduced through parliament as part of the Mining Management Amendment Bill 2013 (MMA).
The MRF requires a 1% levy for all new mines, the fund will be invested – interest raised will be used for the rehabilitation of legacy sites. The levy system is also being introduced in Western Australia, but unlike WA all new mines in the NT will still be required to have a 100% bond for mine closure as well as the non refundable levy.
This is a good start to addressing the serious legacy issues in the NT, but they are still a long way off initiating rehabilitation work. The DME’s first job will be to identify and assess all the legacy sites in the Territory.
As part of the new arrangements under the MMA the DME have removed the requirement for annual environment reporting. They will extend the period criminal charges can be made from 12 months to 3 years.
The DME estimate the liability of all NT legacy sites to be in excess of $1billion. They are expecting to raise $6million in the first year.
For specific detail on all sought amendments to the MMA, please refer to the Mining Management Amendment Bill 2013 (Serial no. 30) introduced into the Legislative Assembly on 16 May 2013. Copies of the Bill, Explanatory Statement and the Minister’s Second Reading Speech can be accessed via the Department of the Legislative Assembly website by clicking on Chamber Documents and then Bills before the Assembly (Twelfth Session).
For more information on mining assessments and the publics rights to engage see the NT Environmental Defenders Office fact sheet on mining law in NT.
National Archives Australia – Northern Territory early years of mining.
Bibliography of NT Mining History
DME – historic mining tenement maps
ABC – Arafura Resources Slams Legacy Mines Levy
Mining Weekly – NT Introduces New Mining Levy
Summary of Mining Management Amendments
DME – details on the Levy
NT EDO mining fact sheet