BLACK OPAL INDUSTRY UNDER THREAT
It appears that at every turn opal miners are being denied their basic
rights. If one was inclined to conspiracy theories one could easily believe that government is interpreting every piece of legislation they possibly can in a way that will effectively force small miners out of the opal industry.
The LRMA have been lobbying for the opening up of Opal Prospecting Area 4 for about ten years now. But as it gets closer the amount of potential opal bearing land that may be available for prospecting and mining is shrinking. The Department of Environment and Conservation have recently purchased the property 'East Mullane' with the aim of adding it to the Narran Lakes Nature Reserve. Mineral Resources had managed to negotiate one portion of the property to be left available for opal mining, but we have just received a copy of a letter from the Minister for Environment advising that none of the property will be available for mining.
This comes on top of a recommendation in the draft Review of environmental Factors that a three kilometre buffer zone around the Narran Lakes system be imposed where no opal prospecting or mining would be permitted. This would effectively exclude the majority of the western fall of the ridge system in Opal Prospecting Area 4. Before miners even have access to Opal Prospecting Area 4 a large potion of the areas with the most potential may be gone.
We are still awaiting the final outcome of the Review of Environmental
Factors and if the initial recommendations in the draft are carried forward it will make it extremely difficult for the average opal miner to comply with the conditions. The information contained in the Review of
Environmental Factors draft, particularly in relation to flora and fauna was so flawed that the LRMA had to pay an expert consultant to refute it.
Miners are also trying to gain access to some ground on 'Wyoming' and though not strictly necessary, Mineral Resources want all sorts of environmental reviews and plans. Plus land is available on 'Muttabun' once the Management Plan is changed and so far we have been waiting for about six months for a new plan.
In the meantime the Warden's Inquiry on landholder objections into land
being included in Opal Prospecting Area 4 is continuing and will legally be a very expensive exercise. Mineral Resources have refused to have
representation at the Inquiry which could make it very difficult and delay the proceedings if questions on policy etc. need to be answered by the Department.
And to top it all off Mineral Resources have forced a miner to stop using his blower on his mineral claim because a camp holder had complained of some dust, even though there is no proof that the dust in the camp came from the blower.
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 05:48pm