Mining exploration was one of the areas hardest hit by the slowing in demand for Australia’s mining resources. Although 19% of geoscientists are still unemployed (compared with fewer than 2% three years ago), senior counsel Glenn Wright says his boutique mining and exploration firm TAS Legal has been receiving more work, as the freeze thaws.
“Work has picked up. It was bad last year, but my experience is showing that there seems to be a lot more legal work that you can do for exploration permits at the moment,” Wright said.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth
partner James Minchinton has seconded this optimism, but believes the market is still split depending on size.
“I think there are signs that exploration activity is starting to increase. But there is a divide in the market. The big players are holding and waiting while junior players are being a bit more bullish about the market expectations,” Minchinton said.
In July, the Federal Government will introduce its exploration development incentive, intended to reinvigorate junior mining exploration companies through tax breaks.
“Junior explorers are seeing a need to get on to the ground now so they can bring projects online,” Minchinton said.
Wright explained that during the downturn many explorers were unenthusiastic about spending money as they had been in 2011, which meant there were less exploration permits being bought ultimately meaning less work for law firms.
The Queensland government is also aiming to streamline its own mining regulations with its Modernising Queensland Resource Acts (MQRA) program. The regulatory impact statement for the MQRA has been released which outlines its aim to create a single framework for landholders and tenement holders across resource tenures.
Wright believes the initiative will allow lawyers to avoid the ‘bureaucratic nightmares’ that can surface when tenements overlap, creating a simpler legal environment for explorers to operate in.
“With exploration in the past there was a bit of overreaching in terms of trying to do too much and go too far, but I think there is less of that and a more realistic approach. I think we are seeing a consolidation,” Wright said.
Legal resources & energy teams are beginning to gear up, as they look to help junior mining players with exploration activity that is now on the table.