Opal miners don't dig Lake Eyre Basin plan

Opal mining costs unsustainable under proposed Lake Eyre Basin plan

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Kevin Phillips says the state government is casting aspersions on the strength of its current environmental regulations by proposing Lake Eyre Basin changes.

Kevin Phillips says the state government is casting aspersions on the strength of its current environmental regulations by proposing Lake Eyre Basin changes.

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A regulatory impact statement should be undertaken before any of the Palaszczuk government's proposals for the Lake Eyre Basin come into law, according to Quilpie opal miner and secretary of the Queensland Opal Miners Association, Kevin Phillips.

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A regulatory impact statement should be undertaken before any of the Palaszczuk government's proposals for the Lake Eyre Basin come into law, according to Quilpie opal miner and secretary of the Queensland Opal Miners Association, Kevin Phillips.

Around 85 per cent of Queensland's opal endowment is overlaid by the basin, which contains essential components for opal formation.

According to Mr Phillips, the investment opportunities for opal mining will be severely impacted by the proposal to expand the Strategic Environmental Area by nearly 800 per cent to cover the whole basin area.

"If the Strategic Environmental Area is expanded over the whole LEB, it will impose on opal miners for each and every new mining tenure application, an application lodgement fee of $3000, to apply to the Department of State Development for a Regional Interest Development approval," Mr Phillips said.

Combined with a number of other regulatory fees and charges, for land compensation, environmental authorities, annual rent, native title costs, even for the cost of lung x-rays, this would make opal mining unsustainable, he believed.

Despite repeated requests for information on the introduction or alteration of fees associated with mining activity in the Lake Eyre Basin, the Department of Environment and Science has only responded with the statement that there has been no discussion on costs as part of the stakeholder engagement.

"The focus is on types of increased protections," a spokeswoman said.

Related: Beware the fine print warning at Lake Eyre consultation

Mr Phillips said over 500 opal miners would be affected by development approval changes, including himself.

"I used to export to Switzerland, Germany and the US, and have three employees," he said. "Now it's just me and the missus, and we haven't got our hand out for anything."

Mr Phillips, who submitted an objection with the Department of Environment and Science prior to last Friday's closing date, said opal mining had been a principle source of income and investment for regional Queensland communities since 1870.

"There is no evidence to support that opal mining operations are detrimental to ecological sustainability within the Lake Eyre Basin," he said.

"Opal miners therefore are opposed to the expansion of the Strategic Environmental Area over the whole of the Lake Eyre Basin.

"Opal mining operations work within already existing environmental codes of compliance, legislation and regulation."

Related: Producers seek further detail on Basin plan

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