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Book Review: Mining Law and Policy International Perspectives Print E-mail

book_mining_law.jpg Author: John Southalan

Publisher: The Federation Press,

326 pages.

Reviewed by Brian Morgan

Mining Law is not just complex. It can be exceedingly complex. Mining itself can been at a simple level such as panning for gold or at a sophisticated level in which international negotiations precede the granting of rights and, with them, obligations to local landowners, to States and to countries.

As the author says, the risks of mining are great and therefore the investors expect to receive a large reward, if the venture is successful, in order to compensate for the risk that they took.

Mining Law and Policy: International Perspectives is more than a summary of mining law. It delves into the policy behind the development of the law; it considers subjects such as commercial issues, negotiation protections, tenure agreements whereby the mining company is assured of tenure for a time certain, joint ventures, the important topic of workplace safety, government approvals and devotes the better part of a chapter to environmental issues, a topic of interest at present in this State, with the coal seam gas debate that is occurring at present.

I could not help but remember the coal encrusted faces of miners of old, as they left those underground coal mines, and think how much better their lives would have been, had they had some workplace safety protocols to protect them.

Discussion of mining law would not be complete without considering the financial aspects of mining. This is another source of complexity, in itself, as we now see national and international investment treaties. Some countries will only permit mining by their own people. There is the potential problem of foreign investment, and, conversely, the right to export the product of the mine. And there is the potential for the interplay of competition law. In contrast to the present legal environment, in Australia’s north west in the 1960’s, two companies were effectively able to keep competition at bay by preventing anyone else from using the railways which they owned. With greater appreciation of competition laws, companies are now required by legislation to negotiate with prospective competitors in order to achieve agreement to allow the competitor to use the railway service at an appropriate fee.

And finally, on the subject of finance, governments make sure that they share in the success of a mine, even without the mining tax. It is suggested that, as governments are providing for profits to be made from public resources, the companies should return some revenue to the government.

The author gives some figures that profit related taxes amount to between 30-40% of the mine’s income, in addition to which, output related royalties and input related royalties, such as payroll tax, sales tax, land and property taxes are collected.

Thus it is evident that a substantial part of a mine’s income is shared with the public through these taxes. The author discusses their nature, how they are calculated and collected and makes some interesting observations, such as, in one case, that a proposed merger of two companies was calculated as likely to produce stamp duty of one billion dollars to the Australian economy.

Mining Law and Policy: International Perspectives has substantial notes at the end of each chapter. The author has asked a series of questions throughout the book, the answers to which are in the final chapter. This layout is not new to me, I must say, but I find that posing questions in the body of a book is distracting and I have never liked it. However, I suspect that the most frequent users of this book, will be students. That being so, their teachers will enjoy having questions posed for tutorial discussion and the like. Recognising that likely use, I will endure this style. With that minor comment, not criticism, I commend the author for the level of detail, annotation and discussion, all of which are first rate.

Brian Morgan


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