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Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty. Ltd. v Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy[2019] QLC 10

Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty. Ltd. v Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy[2019] QLC 10

LAND COURT OF QUEENSLAND

CITATION:

Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty Ltd v Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy [2019] QLC 10

PARTIES:

Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty Ltd

ABN 92 607 633 456

(applicant)

 

v

 

Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

(respondent)

FILE NO:

MRA429-18

DIVISION:

General division

PROCEEDING:

Application for injunction

DELIVERED ON:

22 February 2019

DELIVERED AT:

Brisbane

HEARD ON:

Heard on the papers

Submissions closed 1 February 2019

HEARD AT:

Brisbane

PRESIDENT:

FY Kingham

ORDERS:

  1. The application is dismissed.
  2. Each party must bear their own costs unless a party applies for costs by filing and serving brief written submissions within 7 days.

CATCHWORDS:

COURTS AND JUDGES – COURTS – JURISDICTION AND POWERS – where the respondent imposed a financial penalty on the applicant – where the applicant applied to the Land Court of Queensland for an injunction pending an internal review of the decision – whether the Land Court had jurisdiction to hear and determine the application – where the Court did not have jurisdiction

Land Court Act 2000, s 4, s 5

Mineral Resources Act 1989, s 363, s 406

De Lacey v Juunyjuwarra People & Anor [2004] QCA 297, applied

R v Deemal [2010] 2 Qd R 70; [2009] QCA 131, applied

APPEARANCES:

P Crossland, P E Crossland Consultancy, as agent for the applicant

G Elmore of Counsel (instructed by In-house Legal, Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy) for the respondent

  1. [1]
    Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty Ltd holds an exploration permit, and has applied for two mining leases, over an area of land near Mareeba. In August 2017, the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy investigated a possible breach by Goldhounds of a condition of its exploration permit. DNRME informed Goldhounds it would not progress the mining lease applications until it concluded the investigation. In December 2018, DNRME finalised its investigation and issued Goldhounds with a Notice of Decision imposing a penalty of 75 penalty units ($9,791.25).
  1. [2]
    Goldhounds sought an internal review of that decision by DNRME on 21 December 2018. The day before, Goldhounds applied to the Land Court for the following orders:

“…an urgent interlocutory injunction to stay the decision of the Principal Mining Registrar and the lifting of the bar that the DNRME has placed on all dealings of the tenements held by (Goldhounds) pending the outcome of an application for an internal review of the decision.”[1]

  1. [3]
    DNRME argues the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the application.
  1. [4]
    Goldhounds asserts the Land Court has jurisdiction for all matters arising under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and, further, that it has specific jurisdiction under either s 363 or s 406 of that Act.[2]
  1. [5]
    For reasons that follow, I find the Land Court does not have jurisdiction and dismiss the application.
  1. [6]
    The Land Court is a court of record.[3] It has limited, statutory jurisdiction which is given to it under the LCA or another Act.[4]
  1. [7]
    Goldhounds did not identify a provision of either the LCA or the MRA that confers jurisdiction on the Land Court for all matters arising under the MRA. Its argument rests on the context of the MRA, when read as a whole and, in particular, having regard to s 363.
  1. [8]
    Section 363(1) of the MRA grants jurisdiction to the Land Court in broad and general terms:

“(1) The Land Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine actions, suits and proceedings arising in relation to prospecting, exploration or mining, to any activity under section 386V, or to any permit, claim, licence or lease granted or issued under this Act or any other Act relating to mining.”[5]

  1. [9]
    The words “actions”, “suits” and “proceedings” are capable of various meanings. The MRA does not define those terms. The Acts Interpretation Act 1954 defines “proceeding” to mean a “legal or other action or proceeding”.[6] That does no clarify the meaning of s 363(1).
  1. [10]
    The meaning of the terms used in that section must be derived from the statutory context and the objects of the MRA.[7]
  1. [11]
    The principal objectives of the MRA are set out in s 2:

“2 Objectives of Act

The principal objectives of this Act are to—

(a) encourage and facilitate prospecting and exploring for and mining of minerals;

(b) enhance knowledge of the mineral resources of the State;

(c) minimise land use conflict with respect to prospecting, exploring and mining;

(d) encourage environmental responsibility in prospecting, exploring and mining;

(e) ensure an appropriate financial return to the State from mining;

(f) provide an administrative framework to expedite and regulate prospecting and exploring for and mining of minerals;

(g) encourage responsible land care management in prospecting, exploring and mining.”[8]

Those objectives provide little assistance in interpreting s 363(1). There are other features of the Act, however, which provide important context for interpretation.

  1. [12]
    Firstly, the Land Court is not the only court to which the MRA gives jurisdiction. The MRA gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction to hear and determine proceedings challenging the validity of a grant made pursuant to the MRA.[9] The MRA also gives the Magistrates Court jurisdiction to hear proceedings for the offence of contravening the MRA.[10]
  1. [13]
    Secondly, s 363(1) must be read in the context of the specific provisions that permit applications to and decisions by the Land Court.[11]
  1. [14]
    Section 363(2) provides some assistance. It identifies a number of specific actions, suits and proceedings for which the Court has jurisdiction:

“(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), the Land Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine actions, suits and proceedings with respect to—

  1. the right to possession of or other interest or share in any mining claim, exploration permit, mineral development licence or mining lease; and
  2. the rights and entitlements to minerals mined under any mining tenement or other authority granted under this Act or any other Act relating to mining and to the products of mining; and
  3. the area, dimensions and boundaries of land (including the surface area of land) the subject of a mining tenement; and
  4. any encroachment or trespass upon or interference with or damage to land the subject of a prospecting permit, mining claim, exploration permit, mineral development licence, mining lease or other authority granted under this Act, or to land entered under section 386V, or to the buildings, plant, machinery or equipment thereon; and
  5. any matter arising between applicants or holders in relation to prospecting, exploring or mining, or arising between applicants or holders and owners of land in relation to prospecting, exploring or mining; and
  1. any dispute or other matter arising between persons identified in native title protection conditions as an explorer or as a native title party, if the conditions—
  1. under section 25AA, are included in the conditions imposed on a prospecting permit; or
  2. under section 141AA, are included in the conditions determined for an exploration permit; or
  3. under section 194AAA, are included in the conditions determined for a mineral development licence; and
  1. any dispute or other matter arising between a person carrying out an activity under section 386V on land and the owner or occupier of the land; and
  1. any determination or review of compensation as provided for under this Act or any other Act relating to mining; and
  2. the enforcement of any agreement or determination as to compensation under this Act or any other Act relating to mining; and
  3. any assessment of damage, injury or loss arising from activities purported to have been carried on under the authority of this Act, including under section 386V, or any other Act relating to mining; and
  1. an authorisation to enter land under section 344A(3);
  1. any application required by this Act or any Act relating to mining to be made or heard in the Land Court.”[12]
  1. [15]
    I have included that provision in full because it illustrates the nature of the actions, suits and proceedings that fall within the general grant of jurisdiction in s 363(1). Expressly, or by implication, they are disputes between persons asserting competing rights, whether as applicants for or holders of mining tenements or as persons holding interests in land that may be or have been affected by mining activities.
  1. [16]
    That indicates the actions, suits and proceedings referred to in s 363(1) are civil in nature.
  1. [17]
    That interpretation is reinforced by s 363(3) which gives jurisdiction to the Land Court for demands for debt or damages relating to activities under mining tenements or agreements about mining tenements, but not for recovery of wages or entitlements under industrial agreements or awards.
  1. [18]
    Thirdly, s 363(1) must be read in the context of other provisions of the MRA that confer specific and limited administrative review jurisdiction.
  1. [19]
    The Land Court can hear appeals against (and stay) decisions about applications:
  1. for prospecting permits, mining claims or to transfer mining lease applications; and
  1. for development plans to extract coal seam gas under a coal mining or oil shale lease.[13]
  1. [20]
    The Land Court can review certain types of directions and requirements,[14] including some compliance directions pursuant to the land access code.[15]
  1. [21]
    In that context, I consider s 363(1) gives the Land Court jurisdiction of a civil, not administrative nature. Goldhounds’s application is not a civil proceeding. Goldhounds seeks a stay of an administrative decision that has affected its applications for mining tenements. Therefore, Goldhounds cannot rely on s 363(1).
  1. [22]
    Goldhounds relied on s 406(1), which does confer some administrative review jurisdiction. It provides, relevantly:

“(1) A person dissatisfied with the following may, if no other right of appeal against the direction or requirement is given under this Act, apply in writing to the Land Court for a review of the direction or requirement—

(a) a direction or requirement given or made by an authorised officer...”[16]

  1. [23]
    An authorised officer may give a person a compliance direction if they have reason to believe the person has contravened, is contravening, or is involved in an activity likely to result in a contravention of a mandatory provision of the land access code.[17] An authorised officer also has a general power to require a person to remedy non-compliance with the MRA.[18]
  1. [24]
    While there is a link to the land access code, the Notice of Decision on penalty was not a decision of an authorised officer. It was a decision of the Minister, through his delegate, to impose a penalty on Goldhounds for its contravention of a condition of its exploration permit.[19] Further, the decision not to process the applications for mining leases pending investigation was not a direction or requirement. Section 406(1) does not apply.
  1. [25]
    I have found the Land Court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine Goldhounds’s application. That does not mean it has no means of seeking relief. The Judicial Review Act 1991 confers administrative review jurisdiction on the Supreme Court. Counsel for DNRME acted professionally and in accordance with the Queensland Government’s Model Litigant Principles[20] by informing Goldhounds of this possibility and the timeframe for applying under the JRA.
  1. [26]
    Goldhounds’s application is dismissed. If any party wishes to apply for costs, they must do so by filing and serving brief written submissions within 7 days.

Orders

  1. The application is dismissed.
  1. Each party must bear their own costs unless a party applies for costs by filing and serving brief written submissions within 7 days.

FY KINGHAM

PRESIDENT OF THE LAND COURT

Footnotes

[1]  Originating Application filed 20 December 2018, 3.

[2]  Affidavit of the Applicant regarding Jurisdiction filed 21 January 2019.

[3] Land Court Act 2000, s 4.

[4]  LCA, s 5.

[5] Mineral Resources Act 1989, s 363(1).

[6] Acts Interpretation Act 1954, s 36.

[7] R v Deemal [2009] QCA 131, [19].

[8]  MRA, s 2.

[9]  MRA, s 370.

[10]  MRA, s 412(2).

[11] De Lacey v Juunyjuwarra People & Anor [2004] QCA 297, [17].

[12]  MRA, s 363(2).

[13]  MRA, s 38, s 40, s 116, s 118, s 318AAZO, s 318AAZP, s 318E1.

[14]  MRA, s 38, s 406.

[15]  MRA, s 335D.

[16]  MRA, s 406(1).

[17]  MRA, s 335A.

[18]  MRA, s 342(1)(i).

[19]  MRA, s 160(1).

[20]  Queensland Government, Model Litigant Principles (2010).

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty. Ltd. v Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Goldhounds Mining and Exploration Pty. Ltd. v Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

  • MNC:

    [2019] QLC 10

  • Court:

    QLC

  • Judge(s):

    Kingham P

  • Date:

    22 Feb 2019

Appeal Status

Please note, appeal data is presently unavailable for this judgment. This judgment may have been the subject of an appeal.

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