Tweed Shire Council is being urged to dig deeply and find out more about future mining exploration in the shire after it was revealed the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has been granted prospecting rights over land near Murwillumbah.
The state government has confirmed that two weeks ago the land council applied for a petroleum special prospecting authority over three tranches of land in northern NSW, including one six kilometres southeast of Murwillumbah, but the land council has ruled out coal-seam-gas exploration.
The primary industries department also has advised that they don’t have to publicly advertise or consult on the application, nor is it posted online on its website.
But Greens Cr Katie Milne says that’s not good enough and wants council to seek urgent advice and a report on any potential mining activities, applications or licences granted in the Tweed.
Tweed- Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council (TBLALC) chair Des Williams said he is upset that they had not been consulted.
In a notice of motion to be debated at next week’s council meeting, Cr Milne wants council to meet with all parties involved in any plans or proposals for mining in the Tweed, including the NSWALC and the TBLALC, if appropriate, as areas the licences cover are not on Aboriginal land.
Tweed Council chief planner Vince Connell said that a primary industries department (NSW Trade and Investment) officer had advised that the prospecting application was ‘primarily a desktop evaluation of existing data, and involves no works, drilling, or site intervention’.
‘The application applies to large tracts of land (the Murwillumbah site is the smaller parcel) across the state, and it will take a number of months for the department to process the application. The department advised that they have no requirement to publicly advertise or consult on this application, nor is the application made available on the website.’
Mr Connell said council had not received any notification of the application from either the department or NSWALC.
NSWALC chief executive Geoff Scott told the Sydney Morning Herald that the land council was talking to a number of mining companies with a view to a venture partnership.
‘Our initial geology studies are showing their potential is enormous. This is a paradigm shift,’ he said.
Mr Scott told local media that any mines would be operated with sensitivity to Aboriginal heritage and environmental issues.
He said the land council would consider further mining opportunities ‘as they present themselves’ and that it was a way Indigenous people could take control of their own destinies and potentially reap ‘billions of dollars’ for their communities.