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Leading Practice Mining Acts Review - Statutes Amendment Bill released

Identification of and compliance with all current legislative requirements that may be applicable to the operation of a particular mine operation is the responsibility of the mine owner or operator.

Listed below are some of the main South Australian and Commonwealth legislation, in addition to the Mining Act 1971 and Mining Regulations 2011, applicable to mining operations. This list is not exhaustive.

Aboriginal Heritage Act
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
Controlled Substances Act
Dangerous Substances Act
Defence Act (Commonwealth)
Development Act
Environment Protection Act
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
Explosives Act
Mines and Works Inspection Act and Regulations
National Parks and Wildlife Act
Native Vegetation Act and Regulation
Natural Resources Management Act
Radiation Protection and Control Act
Public and Environmental Health Act
River Murray Act and Regulations
Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations

Aboriginal Heritage Act

It is an offence to disturb Aboriginal sites, objects or remains under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988. The Act provides protection for all Aboriginal objects, remains, sites of spiritual, archaelogical, anthropological and historical significance whether they are registered or not.

It is a requirement of the Act that any new sites of scientific or heritage significance are reported to the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (see the Aboriginal Heritage Act, sections 20 and 23).

It is recommended that exploration companies liaise with Aboriginal groups and individuals to avoid damaging sites.

Details of the Act and guidelines for complying with the Act are given in

Information sheet M29 Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 and Aboriginal Site Avoidance Guidelines (.pdf 181.7kb)

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Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) (external site) produces codes and standards to assist with safe use of radiation for medical and industrial purposes. All mine operators are required to comply with the Code of practice and safety guide for radiation protection and radioactive waste management in mining and mineral processing, Radiation Protection Series No. 9 (2005) (external site)

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Controlled Substances Act

If cyanide is to be used on the mine site, under the Controlled Substances Act 1984 (external site) and Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 1996 (external site), a user must be in possession of a permit to purchase, possess and use cyanide. The permit is issued subject to conditions.

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Dangerous Substances Act

If cyanide is stored at a mine, under the Dangerous Substances Act 1979 (external site) , the site must comply with the requirements for spill control, segregation from food, medicine and incompatible chemicals, security from unauthorised access and, where applicable, licensing.

Vehicles transporting cyanide must comply with the Australian code for the transport of dangerous goods by road and rail.

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Defence Act

The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) is a large area in South Australia which has been designated under the Defence Act 1903 (Commonwealth) (external site) and Defence Force Regulations 1952 (Commonwealth) (external site) for use by the Commonwealth of Australia for the testing of war materials.

A joint Australian Government-South Australian Government WPA Coordination Office (WPACO) has been set up to administer non-Defence use of and access to the WPA.

Refer to the earth resources information sheet M32 Mineral exploration within the Woomera Prohibited Area (.pdf 1.4Mb) for more information about access to the WPA.

In the case of mining leases, direct negotiation with the Department of Defence will be required.

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Development Act

Some large mining projects may be deemed to be of major environmental, social or economic impact, and may be required to be assessed and approved under the Development Act 1993 (external site). A guide on assessment of major developments is available from Planning SA (external site).

In those parts of the state that are exempt from the Native Vegetation Act (i.e. Adelaide metropolitan area), the Development Act protects 'significant trees' (trees that meet specified circumference and height criteria or are identified as significant trees within a development plan) from damage or removal without approval. Approval may be obtained from the relevant local council authority.

Under the Development Regulations 2008 (external site) some built structures are subject to building rules requirements, but only where the structures are housing, offices or other buildings not directly related to the mining operations. Building rules consent may be obtained from the relevant local council authority.

All proposals within those areas of the state listed in Schedule 20 of the Develoment Regulations require DMITRE to consider the advice of the Extractive Industries Committee (part of the Development Assessment Commmission, Planning SA). This is arranged by DMITRE prior to the offer of the lease being made.

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Environment Protection Act

The Environment Protection Act 1993 (external site) applies to mining operations. Section 25 of the Act imposes a duty on all persons to take all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or minimise environmental harm.

The Environment Protection Authority (SA) (EPA) (external site) issues guidelines on what are considered reasonable and practicable measures to avoid environmental harm; those relevant to mining include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • noise
  • air pollution impact assessment using design ground-level pollutant concentrations
  • bunding and spill management
  • landfill environment management plants
  • odour assessment using odour source modelling
  • wastewater and evaporation lagoon construction.

If the proposed mining operation involves activities listed in Schedule 1 of the Environment Protection Act (e.g. mineral processing), an authorisiation in the form of a works approval is required from the EPA and a licence must be obtained before these activities may commence.

There are a number of environment protection policies relevant to mining oeprations and mineral processing. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

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Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act

Approval is required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth) (external site) that are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of 'national environmental significance' or the environment of Commonwealth land (even if taken outside Commonwealth land). The Commonwealth provides guidelines on what are matters of national envrionmental significance but, where there is some doubt, the matter must be referred to the Commonwealth Environment Minister for a decision.

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Explosives Act

The Explosives Act 1936 (external site) regulates the transport and storage of explosives.

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Mines and Works Inspection Act and Regulations

The Mines and Works Inspection Act 1920 (external site) and Mines and Works Inspection Regulations 1998 (external site) prescribe a range of requirements in relation to environmental and safety issues in operating mines.

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National Parks and Wildlife Act

The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (external site) specifies protected species of plants and animals. Disturbance to these species may require a permit under this Act.

The Act allows mining activities to take place in regional reserves and some parks, subject to the approval of the Mininster for Environment and Conservation. In the case of mining leases, if the ministers do not agree on the grant of the lease, the matter is resolved in Cabinet.

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Native Vegetation Act and Regulations

The Native Vegetation Act 1991 (external site) exempts mining operations from the requirement to seek approval to clear native vegetation. However, the exemption is subject to a requirement that all mining operations (other than exploration) that involve the clearance of native vegetation must be undertaken in accordance with a management plan that the Native Vegetation Council is confident will result in a significant enviromental benefit. The approval of the significant environmental benefit management plan has been delegated to the Department of State Development, and the plan should be included in the proposal or Mining and Rehabilitation Program (MARP). Note: Following the amendments to the Mining Act 1971 coming into force on 1 July 2011, all existing MARPs are deemed to be PEPRs (Programs for environment protection and rehabilitation).

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Natural Resources Management Act

Provisions of the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (external site) relate to control of plant and/or animal pests and diseases, soil conservation and land care, and protection of surface and underground water resources.

A permit is required to undertake activities in watercourses specified in relevant catchment water management or natural resources management plans.

Permits and licences may also be required to access underground or surface water resources.

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Radiation Protection and Control Act

The Radiation Protection and Control Act 1982 (external site) has requirements for the management of public and occupational radiation exposures, and protection of the environment. Radioactive ores are defined as >200 ppm uranium and/or >500 ppm thorium, but these levels are expected to be lowered in the near future. An operation mining radioactive ores may require a licence with conditions to ensure proper management of these issues and of any radioactive wastes produced. Appendix A2 of the Minerals Regulatory Guidelines MG1: Guidelines for miners: mining approval processes in South Australia (.pdf 663.4kb) provides more detail on this process.

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Public and Environmental Health Act

All sewage systems installed as part of mining operations must be approved by the Department of Health under the Public and Environmental Health Act 1987 (external site)

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River Murray Act and Regulations

It is an offence under the River Murray Act 2003 (external site) to conduct any mining activities that may adversely affect the health of the River Murray. Any proposal to grant a mining lease in a River Murray Protection Area (floodplain and tributaries) requires the consent of the Minister for the River Murray. The mining lease proposal is referred to the Minister for the River Murray prior to the offer of the lease being made. If the application falls within the Murray-Darling Basin of South Australia, the Department of State Development must, in considering the application, take into account the objectives for a healthy River Murray under the Act.

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Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations

All mine and quarry operators must comply with any relevant provisions in the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 made under the Act.

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Other legislation