Mining approvals urged in 12-month regulation review

The Australian Government is looking to streamline regulation in the resources sector through a 12-month review conducted by the Productivity Commission.

The review will look at best-practise examples of regulation that removes unnecessary costs for business while maintaining “sound oversight.”

This will include improving the efficiency of environmental approval to reduce regulatory burden on business, with the aim of ensuring resources projects are assessed “transparently and efficiently… while upholding robust environmental standards.”

The announcement follows increased backlash surrounding the difficulty of getting resource projects off the ground, most notably the extended time taken for the approval of Adani’s Carmichael mine in the Bowen Basin.

Industry bodies within the resources sector have welcomed the review, with the Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA) saying it is a significant step to enhancing the industry’s economic, employment and regional contributions.

“It is appropriate that identifying and cutting unnecessary red-tape in major project approval processes is first cab off the rank,” AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said.

“A more streamlined and clear approach for balancing environmental protection with industry growth will help secure investment in new projects that drive Australian jobs and underpin our economy.”

While admitting the review was a step in the right direction, Knott said that changes must be made following its completion.

“A number of minor changes to the processes for making agreements and having them approved in the Fair Work Commission would significantly improve the system for both employers and employees,” he said.

“Further, allowing enterprise agreements to run the length of major project construction would have a huge positive impact on investor certainty and industrial stability in our country.”

The review was also welcomed by the Minerals Council of Australia, with its chief executive officer Tania Constable saying it shows the Federal Government is listening to regional communities.

“Faster approvals for mining projects and greater certainty of process will support more highly paid, highly skilled jobs across Australia,” she said.

“All governments should work together to end the duplication and overlap between environmental regulations and introduce risk-based approaches for assessments and approvals.”

Constable pointed to recent projects which have taken long periods of time to gain an approval, such as the Adani’s Carmichael coal mine (Queensland, eight years), Wallarah 2 coal project (New South Wales, 16 years) and Cameco’s Yeelirrie uranium development (Western Australia, five years).

“These reforms have the potential to unlock up to $170 billion of resources investment in Australia, enabling the minerals industry to play an even bigger role in supporting and strengthening regional communities,” Constable concluded.

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