After months of Defence Department and mining sector engagement and public comment in setting rules for mining access, mining companies can “move in and begin drilling” in a large area of South Australia previously off limits to most exploration, Premier Jay Weatherill says.
The federal government has put access arrangements in place for the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) in SA’s north, a zone the size of England.
The South Australian government has welcomed the move and says the area is set to become one of Australia’s most significant resource provinces.
“Mining companies have been waiting for the opportunity to access this area for years and this deed of agreement will finally allow them to move their drills in and begin searching for the minerals we know are there,” Mr Weatherill said on Friday.
Estimates of $35 billion in development of gold, uranium and iron ore projects over the next decade were possible in this “previously untapped new frontier for mining”.
The government says the WPA and the surrounding area are thought to contain nearly 80 per cent of the nation’s uranium and more than 60 per cent of Australia’s copper resources as well as significant deposits of iron ore, gold and other minerals.
Chamber of Mines and Energy executive Jason Kuchel said some of the conditions of the deed of access were too onerous for mining companies.
“In comparison with the situation that we’ve had for the last 18 months to two years it should certainly assist, but if we go back 10 years ago when companies were given quite ready access to the Woomera Prohibited Area it is seen by many of our members as a backwards step.”
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