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Bettsco Earthmoving Pty Ltd owner Harvey Betts has been fined $21,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs and a Victims of Crime Levy after pleading guilty to illegal mining.

The Meningie company’s owner was sentenced Wednesday in the Environment, Resources and Development Court.

Mr Betts previously pleaded guilty to the unauthorised mining of limestone on a private property near Bowhill east of Mannum in late 2017 in breach of Section 74(1) of South Australia’s Mining Act 1971.  

The maximum penalty for illegal mining in South Australia is $250,000 or two years’ imprisonment.  

The Department for Energy and Mining began a formal three-month investigation after receiving a report of suspicious mining activity in the Mid-Murray region.

Through site visits and witness statements, investigators were able to prove Mr Betts directed workers to remove about 2,700 tonnes of limestone without legal authority.  

The landowner was unaware of the legal breach and was not implicated in the prosecution.  

A mining tenement for the Bowhill land was subsequently granted to a third party, freeing Mr Betts from the usual obligation to rehabilitate earth damaged by illegal mining activities.  

In the judgement handed down in the ERD Court, his Honour Judge Costello described the offence as a deliberate act committed by someone with experience in the earthmoving business.

“Mr Betts currently holds several mineral tenements in South Australia and should have been aware of the need to obtain prior authorisation in order to carry out mining operations,” Judge Costello said.

“He has accepted full responsibility for his offending and does not seek to excuse his conduct or offer any explanations for not seeking an authorisation.

“Despite the absence of a prior record, his contrition and his candour with officers from the Department, I nevertheless regard this offence as constituting a relatively serious breach of the Act.”

Department for Energy and Mining Chief Executive Dr Paul Heithersay says illegal mining activity is taken seriously in South Australia and reports will be thoroughly investigated.

More information on mining regulation in South Australia

24 May 2019