Independent scientific hydraulic fracture stimulation
On 27 November 2018, following careful consideration of the Independent Scientific Panel Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation in Western Australia Report, the State Government announced a raft of new, world-class controls to ensure risks associated with hydraulic fracturing are low and manageable.
A Senior Officials Steering Group (SOSG) was formed to develop the Implementation Plan. The Plan is designed to address the inquiry’s recommendations and the Government’s decisions relating to hydraulic fracture stimulation, and oversee the implementation of actions. DMIRS and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) co-chair the SOSG and the Implementation Working Group (IWG).
The DMIRS-DWER partnership has seen the two agencies work collaboratively with the members of the SOSG. The co-location of staff at times assisted in delivering the Government’s Plan.
Continued interagency collaboration will be critical during the implementation phase to implement reforms across a number of State Government agencies.
DMIRS provides secretariat support for both the SOSG and IWG, and leads the implementation project with DWER, under the direction of the SOSG.
Development of a Potash industry in Western Australia
Potash is vital for agriculture, providing the essential potassium and sulphur required to increase yield; nourish and protect crops from pests and disease; and improve water retention. While Western Australia has abundant potash resources – present in its large salt lakes and brine groundwater resources – there are currently no potash production projects within Australia. Consequently, the need to import potash results in higher prices for farmers.
Given the high global demand for potash fertiliser, Western Australia is well placed to develop a new potash industry. However, as potash is dissolved within vast salt lake and brine groundwater resources, the mining tenures required would extend over areas ten to 20 times larger than those under tenure for conventional mining operations within Western Australia. As rent is calculated on a per hectare basis, the annual mining lease rental costs for these projects would be much higher by comparison with other mining operations.
In 2018, the Western Australian Government committed to assisting the development of a new potash industry in Western Australia by reducing the fixed cost imposed by government to a level more comparable with other conventional mining operations.
On 24 May 2019, the Mining Regulations 1981 were amended to introduce a reduced rental rate for mining leases, restricted to minerals dissolved in brine deposits, including potash. It is anticipated that this will stimulate the mineral sector, assist the development of a new industry, and create employment and community development opportunities for Western Australians.