WA cracks down on website data-scraping practices

Western Australia's Department of Mines and Petroleum is revamping its online systems after claims that some companies have been using special software to 'scrape' data from the department's online system in order to gain an edge in claiming surrendered mining tenements.

On Monday, Western Australia Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion praised the state's Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) for its efforts to introduce a new online system aimed at putting an end to a practice that sees some companies using software to "scrape" data from the department's online systems.

"A number of prospectors expressed concern over the prevalence of large companies using special software to crunch DMP online systems, in a bid to gain an advantage in securing surrendered tenements," said Marmion. "This 'data mining' had become so intense, it was disrupting the department's online systems."

There are 21,278 mining tenements currently registered in the resource-rich state, and with 2,690 tenements surrendered in 2014 and a further 2,702 due for renewal in 2015, the ability to quickly snap up prospecting land as it becomes available represents a valuable competitive edge in the local market.

However, the minister said that the "mining" or scraping of data on the DMP's Mineral Titles online systems is a breach of the platform's terms and conditions of use, if it is not outright illegal.

To ensure a level playing field, the DMP will establish an online system over the next few months that will provide information about the availability of tenements free of charge, following the registration of surrender.

"The information will be visible to everyone at the same time, via the department's website and distributed as an RSS feed, similar to the public lodgement notification of new tenement applications," said Marmion.

The DMP will also make detailed and cost-free tenement information from its systems available for download the day after a registration of surrender. This is expected to alleviate the need for large companies to trawl through the DMP online systems for compliance purposes.

"This will help companies audit and manage their tenements for compliance, as well as determine when ground is available, without the need for 'data mining'," said Marmion. "The data will not, however, include any preregistration information that may indicate the surrender of a tenement."

According to the DMP, the proposed modifications to its online systems follow extensive consultation with industry stakeholders.