Michael Pascoe writes:

Rio Tinto isn’t the first big miner to have
a dog eat its homework on the way to the WA Mining Warden. Previously though, canine incidents have been dealt with according to
the law – instead of whispering in a minister’s ear behind closed doors.

WA Resources Minister John Bowler is on the
nose with just about all the WA mining community except Rio Tinto for
overturning a century or so of precedent to shaft Cazaly Resources. There’s no
shortage of comment (eg The Ozhere and here, SMH
and The West) on this dodgy deal and I can’t find a word being said in Bowler’s favour. No
wonder he appears to be in hiding when he needs to be out presenting an
extremely good excuse for appearing to do the very wrong thing. It makes one
suspect he doesn’t have a good excuse.

The sole subscriber has slipped us another
couple of shovels to use in burying Bowler. One is a copy of the flowchart DoIR
uses in processing lease renewals which specifically deals with applicants who
might have paid their rent but not renewed their paperwork (eg Rio) – the tenement is expired
and the rent is refunded. End of story.

The second shovel is an example of the way
the WA system is meant to work – a case
from 1987 when the postman’s dog swallowed a WMC renewal application. Despite
all WMC’s size and importance, the Warden’s Court did the right thing and WMC
lost out. Both Bowler and Rio should read the Warden’s
well-considered judgement, including these bits:

Western Mining Corporation is without
question a major producer and explorer. The contribution by Western Mining
Corporation to the economy in this State and in particularly the Goldfields is
very significant.

From
my experience as a Warden, Western Mining Corporation is very professional. Its
presentation of material put before me in my capacity as Warden is usually both
competent and comprehensive. Any reasonable person would hold some sympathy for
Western Mining Corporation in this instance. If an application is posted to the
Mining Registrar then in my view having regard to the importance of an application
for renewal, perhaps it would be prudent that the Mining Registrar be
telephoned several days before the expiry day to confirm whether or not the
application for renewal has been received, and if not then the applicant should
cause an application to be delivered to the Mining Registrar. Now it may be
that such instances of failure of delivery are rare but in my view a good
system assumes some failures may occur and procedures should be put in place to
remedy any such failures.

It was a case of too bad, so sad, but
that’s the law – and as a big, rich company, you only have yourself to blame.

Rio obviously doesn’t see things that way. Given Bowler’s silence, one
is left to form speculative opinions about just how much importance Rio attached to the Shovelanna
deposit anyway. Rio had sat on the dirt with no plans to do anything with it for two
decades. And according to The Oz today, nothing’s going to happen there this
side of 2050. That compares with
Cazaly’s plan to start mining immediately. It’s not just Bowler who’s looking
dubious here.

Peter Fray

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