Small miners working claims on Queensland’s opal and sapphire fields have been ambushed by the Palaszczuk Government’s latest move to prohibit the granting of new mining claims under a 12 month moratorium.

Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar MP who represents sapphire miners on the Central Queensland Gemfields and opal miners on the Winton opal fields has described the move as another kick in the guts for western Queensland.

“This was done under the guise of a consultation about the mining claim tenure as part of the draft Queensland Resources Industry Plan. An ambush is not a consultation.

“Historically, the mining claim tenure has allowed ordinary citizens the employment and enjoyment of working a small claim on the fields.

“It differs from mining leases which are the tenure used by big coal miners down to machinery miners on the same gem fields. What concerns me about this moratorium is that it was introduced sneakily by a gazetted regulation which commenced on November 25,” he said.

“It is unclear what the purpose of the moratorium is. If it is to increase public submissions about the future of the mining claim tenure, then why do public submissions close on February 11, 2022 but the moratorium extends until next November?” asked Mr Millar.

“If it is to signal the Government has serious concerns about the future administration of the tenure, then job done. Now, genuinely consult our small miners. Local government must also have a seat at the consultations.”

Mr Millar said email correspondence from the Department that had been shared with him by constituents explained the moratorium by saying it was costing the state too much to administer the mining claim tenure given the royalties returned.

“It is the Department which has steadily increased the paperwork, the rules to be enforced and the fees and maintenance requirements. To then turn around and blame this complicated regime on the small miners is beyond belief.

“Especially at a time when they can no longer receive advice and assistance from Departmental officers on the ground. They have to do everything online through the Department’s “Mineral Hub” in Townsville, 600 kilometres away from both the sapphire and opal fields. This has to be the lowest level of service ever provided by the Government to claim holders.”

Mr Millar said he had written to the Minister asking him to urgently rescind the moratorium and commence proper consultation about how the regulatory burdens and costs can be reduced.

“This could start with a public forum at Winton and another on the Gemfields. Mining claims may be a small business, but it is condescending to treat them as a hobby. It is not an optional leisure pursuit for many people. Their mining claim is their source of income and employment. Government must understand this,” said Mr Millar.

“Mining claim holders are still citizens who contribute strongly to their local community life and to their local tourism economies,” he said.