Court decision

Scope of mining lease objections: consideration of Symbolic Resources Pty Ltd v Kingham & Ors [2020] QSC 193 

By Damian Roe and Emily Collins / 21 July 2020
3 min.
Worthwhile read for: Mining industry professionals

On 26 June 2020 the Supreme Court of Queensland ordered that the Land Court decision of Symbolic Resources Pty Ltd v Burston & Anor [2019] QLC 39 (Symbolic) be declared void and set aside. It did so on the basis that the Land Court was precluded from hearing submissions or evidence from an objector that was not contained in the objections duly lodged in respect of the application.

In its reasons for the decision, the Supreme Court has provided useful guidance on:

  1. drafting objections to a mining lease; and
  2. responding to matters raised by objectors.

What you need to know

The Symbolic case confirms that:

  1. an objection to the grant of a mining lease must set out the grounds of objection and the facts and circumstances relied on by the objector. The Land Court can only hear submissions in relation to those objections. It is not enough that the submissions or evidence led by the objector have an imprecise relationship to a ground of objection; and
  2. the objection does not have to be provided to the applicant for the mining lease within the prescribed statutory period in order to be a “properly made objection”, so long as it has been submitted to the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy.

Issue 1: Meaning of “properly made objection”

Section 265(5) of the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) (MR Act) states that the Chief Executive must refer the application for a mining lease and all properly made objections for the application to the Land Court for hearing. A properly made objection is defined as an objection lodged under section 260 that has not been withdrawn. The Supreme Court found that an objection is properly made even if the objector does not comply with the obligation in section 260(4) MR Act to serve the mining lease applicant with a copy of the objection.

Issue 2: Scope of objection

Section 268(3) of the MR Act states that the Land Court shall not entertain an objection to an application or any ground thereof or any evidence in relation to any ground if the objection or ground is not contained in an objection that has been duly lodged in respect of the application.

The Supreme Court did not accept the argument that there is “no requirement as to the specifics and the particulars that need to be contained in that ground of objection”, therefore “it can be done on a fairly basic level”. The Court found that section 268(3) must be read with section 260(3), which states that the objection shall state the grounds of objection and the facts and circumstances relied on by the objector in support of those grounds.

Key learnings

To preserve its position at a hearing, an objector must turn its mind to all the relevant issues and prepare a detailed objection setting out each ground on which it intends to rely and the facts and circumstances upon which those objections are based. It cannot simply lodge a broad, ill-defined objection with the expectation that it can use the Land Court hearing to re-define or expand its case. To ensure that a valid ground for objection is not missed, an objector should seek advice prior to lodging its objection. 

Once the objection has been lodged, the applicant for the mining lease will be entitled to rely on the contents of the objection and prepare its evidence accordingly, as the Supreme Court has made it clear that the Land Court is not able to hear submissions on any other matter. 

For further information and discussion, please contact our Resources and Energy team.

Damian Roe
Damian is a Partner of our leading Resources, Energy and Projects practice.
Emily Collins
Senior Associate
Emily is a Senior Associate in our leading Resources and Energy practice.

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