Tenterfield granite quarry mining lease cancelled unfairly by NSW government, owner says

THE NSW government has found the smallest mine in the state and unfairly cancelled its licence in a bid to appear tough on mining, the owner of the Tenterfield granite quarry says.

Hans-Dieter Hensel said his quarry, 14km south-west of Tenterfield, consists of one 50-square-metre boulder, which is so small it can’t be found on Google Earth.

In June, the NSW government cancelled Dr Hensel’s mining lease, which he’s had since 1994, marking the first time a mining lease had been cancelled in the state’s history.

He told The Leader the government “found the smallest guy possible” – rather than a multi-million dollar mining operation – to be “made an example of” and a “scapegoat”.

“No matter what I did or said, nothing was taken into consideration,” Dr Hensel said.

The Department of Planning and Environment cited “ongoing compliance issues”, including failure to pay a $10,000 environmental rehabilitation security deposit. But Dr Hensel said it was physically impossible to rehabilitate a boulder.

“It’s had vertical faces removed – they’ve given me no idea how to rehabilitate it, because it can’t be done,” he said.

“I’ve approached heavy engineers and say can you do this – and of course they laugh at you.”

The other issues included failing to use the resource and not providing annual report or a plan of operations – all of which Dr Hensel contests.

“Every year without fail, I submitted a small annual report to the royalty section, stating no activity,” he said.

“It appears that certain sections of the department do not communicate with each other.”

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The quarry has been dormant for at least 10 years. However, Dr Hensel pointed out it was common practice for mines to shut down when they were not profitable. He said his quarry did not require a plan of operations while it was inactive – The Leader asked the department to clarify this, but it did not respond to the question.

However, it did stand by its decision to cancel the mining lease, saying all mining leases in the state require a rehabilitation security deposit – the minimum of which is $10,000 – and Dr Hensel’s quarry was no exception.

A Resources Regulator spokesperson said rehabilitation requested included ensuring the landform was stable, removing all equipment and rubbish, repairing damage to access tracks and long-term re-vegetation.

“There were also clear reporting and documentation requirements which were not met,” they said.

“Representatives from the department have engaged with the titleholder over a long period of time, but in light of the ongoing issues and a lack of a of compliance the decision was made to cancel the licence.

“Following the determination to cancel the licence, the titleholder was advised of his appeal rights – which he has not exercised.”

NSW government's response to The Leader

“Security deposits are required on all mining leases across NSW, and the minimum security required under the Mining Act is $10,000.

“This is to ensure the state doesn’t incur any financial liability if the mine defaults on its rehabilitation obligations. This mine is not exempt from this condition.

“Of note, the security deposits are only used where the authorisation holder fails to meet their rehabilitation obligation. Where a site has been appropriately rehabilitated the security deposit is returned.

“The titleholder was directed to undertake the following rehabilitation of the site:

  • Ensure the final landform is stable and does not present a risk of environmental harm downslope of the site or a safety risk to the public/stock/native fauna;
  • All plant, equipment and associated infrastructure (including drill, generator, shipping container and caravan) have been removed;
  • Damage to access tracks has been repaired and stabilised;
  • There are no visible signs of contamination following the removal of onsite equipment and materials;
  • All rubbish and waste materials have been removed from the site; and
  • Revegetation is sustainable for the long term.

“There were also clear reporting and documentation requirements which were not met.

“Representatives from the Department have engaged with the titleholder over a long period of time, but in light of the ongoing issues and a lack of a of compliance the decision was made to cancel the licence.

“Following the determination to cancel the licence, the titleholder was advised of his appeal rights - which he has not exercised.”

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