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Lrma News 17 November 2004
Many of you may have read the article on the front page of The Land
newspaper last week, which contained many inaccuracies and a one sided view of opal mining. The article was obviously an attempt by NSW Farmers to try and stop the gazettal of Opal Prospecting Area 4 (contrary to the conditions of their western lands lease). Following is the LRMA response to that article.

The graziers' representatives have a major input into rehabilitation
criteria and compensation, both reviewed on a regular basis. Over time as community expectations have changed rehabilitation criteria has got
stricter. Any grazier is entitled to seek additional compensation at any

Miners pay $120 per hectare in compensation into a pool. Graziers get paid between $100 and $400 per hectare compensation for areas covered by mining titles - on average $187 per ha.

$9 per hectare compensation is paid for a whole paddock even though mining titles may only cover a very small portion of the paddock. For example, one grazier is paid $20,000 per annum for about a 2,200 hectare paddock even though mining titles only cover 48 hectares - equating to $417 per hectare in compensation. The market value of the land is about $70 per hectare; in our view compensation is generous.

The land is marginal for grazing and the average carrying capacity is 3-4 hectares per dry sheep equivalent.

Potential opal bearing country is approximately 80,000 hectares. Since about 1968 52,016 mineral claims have been granted, therefore 13,000 hectares in total (16%) has ever been covered by mining titles. At present 5,200 mineral claims are current, representing 1.6% of potential opal bearing country.

A nominal number of mineral claims have been abandoned and not been
rehabilitated - in these cases their security bond is forfeited and the
Department use those funds to rehabilitate those claims.

The photo on the front cover of The Land is taken on an active, preserved mining field we believe on a property owned by the Glengarry, Grawin, Sheepyards Miners' Association.

Preserved opal fields have been declared, with the consent of the
landholders, in small areas around Lightning Ridge, Glengarry, Grawin and Sheepyards, where residences are permitted and rehabilitation criteria is less strict; opal dirt can be left on a mineral claim and holes do not need to be backfilled except for safety reasons. These fields have been preserved for historical, cultural and tourism purposes.

No residences are permitted on any other mining fields. On all other mining fields once mining is completed everything must be removed and all shafts backfilled only leaving behind mounds of dirt over the shafts to allow for any subsidence.

Mr James Foster of 'Remington' has held a residential mineral claim at
Glengarry since 1991.

Mr Bill Murray has two Mining Leases on his own property, which he has used for mining and processing for around 10 years in the proposed Opal Prospecting Area 4 area where no other opal miners have had an opportunity to explore - his own private mining field.

Approximately 90% of graziers in the Narran-Warrambool Reserve have been active miners or had an active interest in the industry at some point in time, many have been very successful.

Opal dirt is only used with the consent of the landholder on some roads as road base.

The Department of Primary Industries recently commissioned a Review of Environmental Factors for the whole Narran-Warrambool Reserve negating the need for individual mineral claim holders to undertake individual studies.

The LRMA has been lobbying for five years for the introduction of an
environmental levy on all mineral claims to be used to rehabilitate whole
areas once mining has diminished. This will be implemented shortly.

The Department has implemented environmental field sweeps and on a regular basis they inspect mineral claims and claimholders are ordered to rectify any breaches.
The Lightning Ridge Mining Board made up of equal representatives of miners and landholders plus local government, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources and Department of Primary Industries, Mineral Resources, oversees mining in the Narran-Warrambool Reserve. Until recently the Department of Primary Industries, Mineral Resources chaired it and they remain as Deputy Chair with the Chair position filled by an independent appointed by the Minister - Ms Susan Kemp. Lightning Ridge and surrounds is a community of some 6,000 people. The only reason a community of this size has developed over the past 100 years is because of black opal. The cretaceous ridge system running north south-southwest from the Queensland border to the Barwon River, bounded by the Narran River in the west and the Big Warrambool in the east, is the only place in the world where gem quality, black opal is produced.

The opal mining industry has in turn been the basis for the creation of our secondary industry - tourism, which is also vital for our local economy. With the development of the mining and tourism industry Lightning Ridge as evolved into a service centre for the surrounding district. The opal industry is at a critical stage and access to new areas for prospecting is essential. Production is down by 80% compared to ten years ago and markets that have taken decades to build are in jeopardy due to lack of supply. This affects the economy of Lightning Ridge and has flow on effects to the wholesale and retail jewellery trade, particularly exports. Skilled prospectors and miners are leaving the industry.

Opal is Australia's national gemstone.

The LRMA Annual General Meeting will be held this Saturday at 10am in the Function Room of the Bowling Club. Drinks and a light lunch will be served immediately following.

There is only one nomination for President and that is Drago Panich. A
ballot will be held for the nine positions of Director and the nominations
are Robert Barrett, Jason Stone, Daniel Hatcher, Anthony Melonas, Mark Holland, Radomir Babic, Ken Lindqvist, Fred Mallouk, Steen Christensen and Ormond Molyneux.

Maxine O'Brien
Lightning Ridge Miners' Association Ltd
PO Box 177
Lightning Ridge NSW 2834
Ph: (02) 6829 0427; Fax: (02) 6829 0830
Mob: 0427 920 474

26 March 2006 05:51pm