Western
Australian Resources Minister John Bowler was correct to terminate Cazaly’s
application for the Shovelanna iron ore deposit in the Pilbara previously held
by Rio Tinto. Not to put
it unkindly, those who bought into Cazaly Resources punting on Minister Bowler
granting the area to Cazaly were taking an enormous risk and were always
likely to lose their money.

Rio’s
undoubted bumbling and incompetence in attempting to renew its Exploration
Licence 46/209 was never going to be sufficient to have this billion dollar
deposit taken from it. There is
nothing unlikely or untoward in Bowler’s decision, which is very much in line
with precedent and the spirit of the Western Australian Mining Act, not the
least amendments recently passed through parliament with the support of all
parties.

The facts
of the matter are these: Rio’s Exploration Licences were due to expire on 26
August 2005 and accordingly on 28 July 2005, Rio
provided the Head Office of the Department of Industry and Resources with the
appropriate renewal fee. Due to an antiquated provision of the Act which has
its origins in the Mining Act of 1904, the renewal application, as distinct from
the fee, must be lodged with the Mining Registrar of the relevant mining field;
in this case the Marble Bar Mining Registrar.

Rio
dispatched the renewal application to Marble Bar by overnight courier. In the
event, the delivery was far from overnight however the application did arrive in
Marble Bar prior to the close of business on the last eligible day. Due to a
quaint local practice, the courier dropped his dispatches at “Lenny Lever’s
store” in the main street.

In keeping
with Marble Bar time, Lenny rang the Mining Registrar six days later to inform
her he had mail for her. Upon retrieving her package, the Mining Registrar
discovered Rio’s renewal documentation. There is no
Western Australian precedent on all fours with Rio’s
case however Pancontinental Mining had a not dissimilar situation in 1986.

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Peter Fray

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