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About Mintabie

Mintabie is a remote opal mining town in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. It is in the far northwest of the state, about 300 kilometres from Coober Pedy.

The Mintabie township is leased to the State Government by APY.

As with other areas in the APY Lands, all visitors require permits to enter Mintabie. On behalf of APY, the State Government issues 12-month licences to people who wish to live in the town and mine the surrounding opal field.

The population of Mintabie fluctuates throughout the year, with approximately 20 residents living there year-round, and up to 60 residents during the peak opal mining season.

People must have a residential licence to live in the town and a commercial licence to operate a business there. There are penalties for remaining in Mintabie without a licence. A resident with a current licence may apply for a 2018–19 licence to remain in Mintabie until 30 June 2019.

Impending termination of the Mintabie Township Lease

Following a review of the Mintabie township lease in 2017, the State Government has decided to uphold the decision made by the former government in February this year to terminate the lease.

Consequently, the Minister for Energy and Mining wrote to APY on 28 June 2018 to notify his intention to terminate the lease.

To give residents time to make alternative arrangements, the date for termination of the lease is 30 June 2019.

Mintabie Health Services

Health services for residents of Mintabie are co-ordinated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). For instructions on how to access these services download the information sheet on the RFDS Primary Health Care Service (PDF)

The Marla Health Service is located at 8 Cockatoo Crescent, Marla, SA 5274 and can be contacted by telephone 08 8670 7007

For emergency calls or evacuations, call 1800 RFDS SA on 1800 733 772.

Further information

Review of the Mintabie Township Lease Agreement

In June 2017, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation established the Mintabie Review Panel. The review was overseen by an independent Chairperson, Mr Paul Case, and was undertaken by the State Government in partnership with APY and the Commonwealth Government. The role of the Review Panel was to make recommendations to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy on the future management of the township area.

In addition to thorough research and investigation, members of the panel attended community meetings at Mintabie with residents and store owners. Meetings were also held with surrounding communities in the APY Lands.

The panel made 14 recommendations to the State Government. The first recommendation was to close the Mintabie township as soon as practicable.

Review of the Mintabie Precious Stones Field

A 2017 Review of the Mintabie township arrangements made several recommendations to the South Australian government, including that it should review the arrangements for opal mining at Mintabie.

Following a desktop analysis completed by the Department, the Minister for Energy and Mining is now seeking the views of stakeholders to be considered by government when making a decision about the future of opal mining at Mintabie.

Submissions will be pubicly available unless specifically requested to remain confidential.

Opportunities for APY communities

Returning traditional lands

According to the panel’s report, APY Lands communities want the management of the area to return to APY.

Protecting the community

According to the panel’s report, closing the township will stop the occurrence of unfair ‘book-up’ (book-up is an informal credit system) in Mintabie that has exploited vulnerable consumers on the APY Lands for many years. The report said that Anangu may have greater disposable income for the purchase of food and other essential goods without unfair book-up in Mintabie.

The report also says that closing the township will cut off a major supply route for drugs and alcohol into the APY Lands. This will have a range of positive social and economic impacts, improving the health and wellbeing of Anangu.

An appropriate police presence will be maintained to monitor and help keep the community safe.

Local training and employment

The report said many sites in the Mintabie township have been abandoned, with rubbish remaining and derelict structures left standing.

A recent audit determined that significant remediation would be required.

Remediation may also be required due to previous damage to sacred sites in the area. The report said there is a concern among Anangu about existing damage to sacred sites and the potential for more damage during unsupervised clean-up operations.

Publications

Frequently asked questions

The State Government led a review of the Mintabie township in 2017.

The review was overseen by an independent Chair, Mr Paul Case. Mr Case has significant experience in managing complex issues in mining towns in regional South Australia, as well as a strong understanding of Aboriginal affairs and the State Government.

A panel supporting the review included Traditional Owners and representatives from:

  • State Government
  • Commonwealth Government
  • APY Executive Board.

The Review Panel consulted with people in the area and took all views into account. This included people in Mintabie and the nearby Anangu communities of Indulkana and Mimili.

While it was noted that most residents in Mintabie wished to remain there, a detailed investigation uncovered significant concerns about antisocial and illegal behaviours in the area, and the review recommended the township be closed to protect Anangu from these behaviours.

'Book-up' is a form of credit which allows the customer to buy goods now and pay for them later. Book-up is generally an informal arrangement with no set repayment dates or formal documentation. It is often used in Aboriginal communities and can play a useful role. However, some book-up practices are exploitative. For example, consumers may be required to provide their debit cards, PINs and details of their income to a shop owner, who then uses the information and cards to withdraw all the customer’s money from their bank account on or around the day they were paid.

The Review Panel consulted with people in the area and took all views into account. This included face-to-face community meetings with people in Mintabie and the nearby Anangu communities of Indulkana and Mimili.

The Review Panel also spoke to relevant non-government organisations that deliver services on the APY Lands and government agencies.

A full outline of the consultation activity can be found in Appendix 5 of the Review Report, and a full outline of the written correspondence received can be found in Appendix 6.

In late June 2018, the Minister for Energy and Mining wrote to the APY Executive Board, giving formal notice to terminate the Mintabie Township Lease, in accordance with the terms of the Mintabie Township Lease Agreement.

To give residents time to make alternative arrangements, the Government has given Mintabie residents 12 months’ notice to 30 June 2019.

The Government has written to all people with a 2017–18 licence and advised them of the date they need to have left the township (i.e. 30 June 2019).

People who are living in Mintabie now without a 2017–18 licence are required to leave as soon as possible.

The State Government is having discussions with APY about the permit arrangements for opal miners from 1 July 2019.

As per the terms of the licences, all residents will be required to “make good” their site before they leave.

There has been no change in the way that opal mining in Mintabie is permitted – opal mining remains ‘business as usual’.

The State Government is considering the future of opal mining in Mintabie and is assessing options regarding the future of the Mintabie Precious Stones Field.

Key stakeholders, including the opal mining industry and the APY Executive Board, are invited to put forward their views by 31 October 2018 -  Submission notice on the future of opal mining at Mintabie (PDF)

Government officers, including representatives from the Department for Energy and Mining, SA Housing Authority, SA Police, Country Health SA and Centrelink, are planning future visits to meet with residents. For details, download the Notice of Meetings for Mintabie Residents (PDF 420 KB).

Consultation will be undertaken with Mintabie opal miners and residents, the APY Executive Board, relevant opal miners’ associations and other key stakeholders about the future of the Mintabie Precious Stones Field.

The State Government will be working closely with people in Mintabie and the APY Lands to manage the lease termination of the township.

An appropriate police presence will be maintained to monitor and help keep the community safe.

People wishing to remain in Mintabie until 30 June 2019 will need to gain authorisation through the current licensing system.

Mintabie residents with a 2017–18 licence are being given the opportunity to apply for a licence for the period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

Under section 29F of the APY Act, it is an offence to reside in the Mintabie Township without authority. The maximum penalty is $2000 plus $500 for each day that someone remains in the Mintabie township lease area without permission.

Requests for further information should be directed to the Department for Energy and Mining:
Phone: 08 8463 3000
By post: GPO box 320, Adelaide, SA 5001
Email: DEM.MintabieOpalMining@sa.gov.au