FOLLOWING the introduction of regulatory reforms for small miners into State Parliament, the Queensland Sapphire Producers' Association (QSPA) is calling on local residents to have their say on the future of the Gemfields.
Last week, the Newman Government introduced new laws into Parliament to reduce red tape for small miners, after years of campaigning by the Queensland Small Miners' Council (QSMC), of which the QSPA is a member.
Being a unique area, we want to look at making the area sustainable, viable.
"We've been lumped in with all the large miners and mineral miners under the Act," QSPA president Cliff Mortley said.
"So the thoughts were to create a small-scale mining platform. Hence joining these five different associations (into the QSMC) so we could come up with a platform that was beneficial to all small miners.
"The gains we hope to get ... are obviously a lowering of costs, simplification of the processes and procedures (and) having to deal with one department," he said.
The QSPA is inviting all residents of the Gemfields - miners or not - to meet next Thursday.
"Out here, we have 86% of the mining claims in Queensland, just in this Gemfields region. Being a unique area, we want to look at making the area sustainable, viable, have a long lifespan for the future but also attract tourists, to make it beneficial to everyone who mines here," Mr Mortley said.
"What we're looking at also is the cottage industries associated with that as well. There's valuations, there's gem cutting, there's stone cutting - all these sorts of things that are going on around the area. We want them all to prosper."
On the meeting agenda will also be the issue of opening up more areas to mining.
"We need to get to where the sapphires are and have new regulations to be able to help the miners ... but we need to be able to have access to do it," said QSPA treasurer Kelvin Johnston.
"At the moment, the Central Highlands Gemfields are the largest in the world and can still produce some of the finest sapphires and that should be open to the public, it should be open to the miners.
"The area's been open since 1870 when the Chinese were here digging by hand. In the 1970s, we had people with bulldozers raping the land between here and Sapphire. So it has been here a lot of years but a lot of that has been dug out or it's harder to get at, so we want these new areas now."
- The QSPA community meeting will be held at the multi-purpose centre in Sapphire on December 13, from 1-3pm. For information, contact Mr Mortley on 4985 4572 or Mr Johnston on 4985 4119.
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