Wombat Forest ruling from VCAT

Breaking news: We just received the judgement from VCAT on our Wombat Forest matter.

We represented Wombat Forestcare Inc, a community group made up of locals who love the forest and its wildlife.

A mining company called Fortitude Mining and the two holders of Mining Licence MIN5349 had proposed to ‘sample’ over 5,000 tonnes of ore under the terms of their exploration mining licence, as well as build roads that would damage foraging habitat for the Greater Glider and the Powerful Owl, as well as potentially killing wombats in their burrows.

Our argument on behalf of Wombat Forestcare was that so-called ‘exploration’, when it proposes to dig up and process over 5,000 tonnes of ore, actually amounts to ‘mining’ rather than ‘exploration’ – and therefore is not allowed without first seeking a planning permit from the local council. 

We also argued that the nature and extent of the other proposed works  is such that it cannot be considered to be for ‘exploration’, but that the method of bulk sampling will lead to the whole site being cleared of vegetation, and roads and dams being built to a level that will facilitate later mining of the entire tenement without further works. 

It’s true that mining licences allow ‘exploration’ and construction of buildings, roads etc the company deems necessary to support the exploration.  However, our view is that what the mining licence holders proposed was far in excess of ‘exploration’.

Unfortunately, we lost our primary claim, but the tribunal agreed with some of our key points:

“I agree with WFC that the nature and extent of bulk sampling in a particular case could conceivably lead to a finding that the bulk sampling was, in reality, in that particular case, mining rather than exploration.”

On a positive note, these proceedings clarified that the exploration-only portion of the permit has expired and cannot be renewed. That means that, for this mining licence, the licence holders can’t proceed with the ‘exploration’ under their current mining licence, but will need a planning permit from the Moorabool Shire Council. 

What does this mean for the Wombat Forest?

The community holds valuable local knowledge about this beautiful part of Victoria’s natural heritage  and it is our firm view that this should be taken into account in any decision about this development in The Wombat Forest.  The outcome of this case is pleasing because it confirms that no further mining or exploration can go ahead under this mining licence without a planning permit process which will give the community an opportunity to put forward their important concerns about the impacts of this development on the environment and object to the granting of a permit. 

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