‘Dry and lifeless’ opal mine site in Land v Grabbe court stoush

A couple’s desire to fossick for opals on a patch of “monochrome, dry and lifeless” land in southern Central Queensland has trumped another pair’s plan to rehabilitate the drought-ravaged area of dirt.

Land Court of Queensland Magistrate Peta Stilgoe last week ordered mining lease holders David and Susan Land to pay $1669.54 in compensation to Anthony and Lynette Grabbe for access to an 16-hectare patch of their more than 21,000-hectare property in Cunnamulla – almost 800km west of Brisbane.

The Lands had applied to the court for the continuation of a mine lease they purchased in February last year (2020) with the intention of continuing to search for opals.

Ms Stilgoe, in a decision delivered at Cunnamulla last Friday said: “To the casual observer, the land around Cunnamulla is monochrome, dry and lifeless.

“To those who are prepared to spend time and effort getting to know the country, it is a rich, varied and multi-coloured landscape.

“Anthony and Lynette Grabbe have owned Nooralaba, a 21,238.28ha property 85km north west of Cunnamulla since 2012.


“They love their land and they are working hard to rehabilitate it and make it productive after a prolonged drought.

“(Whereas) David and Susan Land find the variety and colour of the landscape in the opal they want to extract from (their) mining claim MC300085.”

Ms Stilgoe said the mining claim was first granted in 1999 and renewed in 2009.

“The Lands’ predecessor applied to renew the claim again in 2018. The Lands bought the claim in February 2020. The 2018 application for renewal remains outstanding because the parties cannot agree on the compensation to be paid. I must decide compensation, having regard to the factors in (Section 85) of the Mineral Resources Act (1989).

“The Lands’ proposed mining claim is a very modest 16ha in a property that is over 21,000ha.

“Their impact on the land will be minimal, particularly as the claim is already denuded of vegetation and has a very large hole in it. For that reason, the compensation (payable to the owners) should … be modest.”


Ms Stilgoe ordered the Lands pay the Grabbes compensation of $638.36 for their licence MC300085 and a further $1031.18 for the term of the licence’s renewal.

Read the decision.

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