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Resources – Exploration Drilling Grants

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Tags: Mining

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you Minister, in fact, you are dissembling again. The administrative error was identified by Bob Brown Foundation's legal counsel, not Mineral Resources Tasmania.

Minister, Yunnan Tin is the largest tin producer in the world. It also happens to be owned by a brutal totalitarian regime, the Chinese government, like MMG. Recently it was announced that Yunnan Tin will receive yet another exploration grant from the Tasmanian Government. Its third so far. How do you justify giving away taxpayer funds to a corporation that, so clearly, does not need them?

Mr BARNETT - Yes, I will pass to the director of MRT to assist in answering this question, because I think you are confusing MMG with Renison, and I want to make it very clear, that they are two separate entities.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am talking about Yunnan Tin.

Mr BARNETT - Your reflection on MMG, as I said, is separate to Renison tin.

Ms O'CONNOR - I understand that, I was making a point. I am asking a specific question about Yunnan Tin, and the handout of public money to a multinational corporation

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, I think the Minister understands the question. If you allow him the opportunity to respond.

Mr BARNETT - You are making a point, and I hope it is not inspired by race.

Ms O'CONNOR - I beg your pardon? You will withdraw that immediately. It is inspired by my concern for human rights, and it is inspired by the fact that you suck up to a totalitarian regime through government policy. You withdraw that.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor

Mr BARNETT - Mr Chair, I am very concerned.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, if you have a point of order that you would like to raise, you have the opportunity to do so. Otherwise, the minister has the call.

Mr BARNETT - Mr Chair, I withdraw that reference that I have just made. But I do make the point that the member keeps referring to China, and a Chinese regime.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, I referred to a Chinese government. Yes, the regime, not the people.

Mr BARNETT - You consistently refer to China, and I draw this to your attention.

Ms O'CONNOR - You can try to muddy the waters to cover up your toadying to them, but I will just tell the truth, thanks.

Mr BARNETT - I draw this to your attention -

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, the Minister has withdrawn what he said before. Unfortunately, name calling from you as well is not going to be helpful. I ask that the Minister be given the opportunity to respond. I think he was seeking advice from the Director of MRT. Minister, you have the call.

Ms O'CONNOR - Relating to your Yunnan tin's exploration grants.

Mr BARNETT - Yes, and the point I am making is it is not based on the entity and where it is from, whether it is from China or from some other foreign country. We support foreign investment in Tasmania and it delivers a growth opportunity and jobs in a whole host of areas, not just mining, but agriculture, primary industries, manufacturing, across the board.

Ms O'CONNOR - We are giving Tasmanian taxpayers' money to the largest tin producer in the world.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor if you are not interested in the answer to the question, give the call to Mr Wood. I will give the Minister another opportunity to finish his answer, can he please be heard in silence before I hand over the call?

Mr BARNETT - What I wanted to say, in addition, is that the Renison Tin Mine at Rosebery is owned and operated by Bluestone Mines, a Tasmanian joint venture, an equal joint venture with ASX, Metals X and the Yunnan Tin Group. The latest announced reserves and resources provide for more than ten years mine life at current production rates, providing robust foundation for further mine development and exploration. It is a very substantial entity on the west coast, it does employ many people on the west coast and indeed the north-west coast.

Ms O'CONNOR - But why are we giving them public money?

Mr BARNETT - And with respect to the exploration license, which is something as a government we strongly support further exploration in the mining and mineral processing sector. I will pass to the Director of Mineral Resources Tasmania to refer to the exploration grant.

Ms O'CONNOR - It was not a general question. It was about Yunnan tin and we now have 20 minutes left of this Estimate.

Mr BARNETT - Which is the exploration grant that you referred to.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor please allow the Director of MRT to provide the answer to the question that you pose.

Mr ROBINSON - The exploration drilling grant initiative is open to all of those companies who explore throughout Tasmania. The purpose of the exploration drilling grant initiative is to further the increase in our database and knowledge of geology and the potential to find mines throughout Tasmania.

We take into account a number of different factors and we do have a committee which is representative of one person from the academic community, one from industry and also two from MRT (Mineral Resources Tasmania) in their assessments of all of the applications.

In the case of the Yunnan Tin, they received the grant to undertake exploration in round six and they are yet to undertake that drilling at this point in time and the information we receive from EG as a whole and the value of this program is that such that we are realising for every dollar in public investment, it is realising $3.40 of investment by the industry itself and Yunnan is part of that industry that is undertaking investment to help us extend our knowledge of Tasmania.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Chair. Minister, across the first five rounds of the exploration drilling grant initiative program, 57 grants were awarded. Are you able to tell the committee the total amount of funds disbursed through these five rounds? And also, how many of these grants resulted in no payment made to the recipient?

Mr BARNETT - The Director may be able to assist with the detail in that answer.

Mr ROBINSON - Up until May 2022, a total of $854 812 in grants had been paid for. That amounted to 10.2 kms of drilling, with a total estimated expenditure - including costs such as logging of the [inaudible] amounted to $2.9 million.

The current rate at which we are having payment, relative to the number of grants that are initially awarded, is about 45 per cent. That is within the range of other states and territories throughout Australia.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you for that answer. Are you saying that of the grants that were awarded just under half completed no drilling. and so the grant wasn't paid?

I am genuinely trying to understand the answer.

Mr BARNETT - We will genuinely try to respond and assist. The whole point of the EDGI grants is to encourage exploration. For every $1 invested, some $3.40 is delivered in return for the taxpayers' money and is well received by industry. In terms of the detail, we are not confirming, we are responding to your question, and I will see if the director can assist.

Ms O'CONNOR - I just want confirmation about it so I can ask the next question.

Mr ROBINSON - The situation for the drilling is that, not necessarily companies - and we have had a number of different issues that have occurred through the five rounds, we have had COVID-19, for example, when it became very difficult to obtain drill leases. People supply has also been very difficult at times, in more recent times with the strong exploration market. In some cases we have seen holes drilled, but they have not be able to complete their documentation within the time, and therefore they have not been paid the amount of money that they could have claimed in that process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Minister, across the first six rounds of the EDGI, by our account - and we are happy to be corrected here - there have been 63 grants awarded. Is there information available to the committee on how many applications have been refused? I am also interested to know how many grants have been awarded to projects that were awarded a grant previously.

Mr BARNETT - It is a very detailed question requiring detailed answers. I am being advised by the department -

Ms O'CONNOR - I can put that on notice.

Mr BARNETT - I am just checking if we are able to take it.

Mr STEWART - Kevin, unless you have those numbers in front of you, we can provide those quite quickly.

Mr BARNETT - We can get back to you. If you could put that on notice, we are happy to respond.