Good Neighbours – How Close is Too Close for Resource Activities?
The new changes to mining and gas laws under the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014 will mean that all resource companies have to abide by the same rules applying to restricted land.
Under these new rules, “Restricted Land” is effectively a “buffer zone” of 200m around certain areas of importance to the landowner, such as their house or an intensive animal business (eg. feedlot). Restricted land will also be around schools, childcare centres and hospitals. Cemeteries and burial places will have a 50m distance around them as “Restricted Land”. With some exceptions, a resource company is not allowed to undertaken any activities in Restricted Land without the Landowner’s consent.
Under previous rules which applied to miners (but not gas companies), other important farm infrastructure such as yards, bores, dams and other water storage were included as restricted land. Unfortunately for landowners, the new rules do not cover these integral parts of the property. This leaves the landowner open to greater disturbance and impact by resource activities on yards, bores, dams and other water infrastructure and the livestock that they supply.
The changes also make exemptions for certain activities which CAN be done within restricted land WITHOUT the Landowner’s Consent. These include installation of an underground pipeline or cable if completed within 30 days, operation, maintenance or decommission of an underground pipeline or cable and using the restricted land as an access route (although this access requires the landowner’s agreement in writing).
In addition to these consent provisions, it is important to remember that if a resource company wants to undertake “advanced activities” (activities which have a greater impact or disturbance, such as drilling or making new roads) they need to have a signed Agreement with you.
Resource companies must also operate within their “environmental authorities”, which place restrictions on how the company must meet standards for environmental concerns, acceptable sound levels, light, dust, noise etc. Sometimes these standards can be “waived” by the landowner.
Therefore if a company approaches you wanting to do work on your property, whether it is right at your front door or in the most distant corner of the paddock, you should always consult a solicitor before signing anything, as you may be unwittingly signing away your rights or advantages.