|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
Administration of the goldfields was based on a series of Goldfields Acts dating from 1853 when an "Act for the better management of the Goldfields", 17 Vic., No.4, was passed. This Act provided for a system of mining leases and licences to be administered by the Commissioners of Crown Lands, who were also known as Goldfield Commissioners. Earlier legislation (e.g. the 1851 and 1852 Acts 15 Vic., No.15 and 17 Vic., No.1) had made provision for the Commissioners to regulate mining on "waste lands of the Crown". In 1855 the licensing system introduced in 1853 was replaced by a system of miners' rights administered by Local Courts which operated in designated districts, and had similar powers to a Court of Petty Sessions (18 Vic., No.37). Members of the Courts were elected by holders of miners' rights in the district. These arrangements were further refined by the 1857 Act 20 Vic., No.32 which set up a more complex administrative and judicial structure within specified Mining Districts comprising Mining Boards, Mining Wardens and Courts of Mines.
The Mining Statute 1865 (No.291) and later Mines Acts extended this system to the regulation of all mining activities, providing also for the appointment of various District mining officials, including Mining Officers, Registrars and Surveyors. The 1865 Statute also introduced provisions relating to mine safety. These provisions were subsequently extended to include inspection and control of mines, their managers and engineers, mining equipment and equipment operators, mine ventilation, drainage and sludge abatement. (For more detail see in particular the Mines Acts 1890 (No.1120), 1897 (No.1514), 1907 (No.2127) and 1958 (No.6320).) Specific provision was made for coal mines in the 1909 Coal Mines Regulation Act (No.2240), which also provided for the establishment of a State Coal Mine.
During the Gold Rush period local administration was paramount. However from the 1860's increasingly the regulation of mining and associated functions became centralised in the Department of Mines (VA 2719) and its successor agencies the Department of Mines and Water Supply (VA 2720) and the Mines Department (VA 612)
Formation, Scope and Major Functions of Mines Departments
In 1860 a Commissioner of Mines was appointed and inherited responsibility in 1861 for the administration of the goldfields and regulation of mining activities from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26).
For a brief period from 14 November 1861 to 27 June 1863, there was neither a Commissioner nor a Minister of Mines. During this period the Postmaster General was responsible for mining. In 1863 a Minister for Mines was again appointed, inheriting responsibility for miners leases and surveys from Lands (VRG 18) in 1865 and 1864 respectively.
Between 1860 and 1977 the prime functions were:
investigation of the State's geological structure, mineral wealth and groundwater resources
provision of technical services, financial assistance and information to the mining industry
licensing of mining activity
supervision of the safe working of mines, quarries, pipelines and on and offshore petroleum installations
During the 1870's and 1880's increased responsibility for safety standards in mines, mining accident relief funds and the credentialling of mining officials such as surveyors, mine managers and engine drivers was assumed. From 1909 to 1911 the Minister was also responsible for the operation of the State Coal Mine (VA 720), a responsibility inherited by the Ministry of Railways (VRG 32)
With the development of oil exploration in the 1930's and the development of the off-shore oil and natural gas industries in the 1960's, the Department became responsible for the issuing of Petroleum Prospecting Licences, Petroleum Mineral Leases and Petroleum Exploration Permits and later for the regulation of pipelines, onshore and offshore petroleum installations and for the transportation and storage of inflammable liquids and liquefied gases.
In 1938 the Department assumed responsibility for the issuing of gold buyers licences from the Treasury (VA 865).
In 1977 the Minister for Minerals and Energy (VRG 47) assumed responsibility for all mining functions.