29,000 jobs at risk under ‘broken’ planning system

The NSW Minerals Council has said project deferrals and postponements of 12 months or more will jeopardise 29,000 jobs across the state and result in $10.3 billion in lost investments.

New research by PricewaterhouseCoopers and commissioned by the Council said the flaws in the planning system is impeding mining investment and creating an atmosphere of ambiguity that could result in huge job losses.

The Council’s CEO Stephen Galilee said the research highlighted the high stakes unless the system was fixed through the new bill the Liberal government intends to introduce into Parliament this year.

“Overall the government is aware that unless they get the planning system right, there is going to be a significant economic cost.”

He said project delays could result in $600 million a year in lost mining royalties.

Rio Tinto agreed and said swift changes are required in the planning system to curtail more job cuts and spur long term investment, The Australian reported.

“We need immediate action from the NSW government to restore certainty and consistency to the planning system for major mining projects,” Rio Tinto chief executive energy Harry Kenyon-Slaney said.

Rio has faced project delays due to the state’s planning system, with its extension of its Warkworth mine, 15km southwest of Singleton, being halted by the NSW Land and Environment Court.

It was the first time the NSW court had denied project approval to extend an existing open-cut mine.

“Employees at our Mount Thorley Warkworth mine are now victims of the uncertainty that the poorly designed NSW planning system has created,” Kenyon-Slaney said.

Australian Mining reported yesterday the council criticised the state's 'broken' planning system for the present slowdown in the Hunter's coal mining sector.

A roundtable was held with the region's coal industry and business groups to ask the state government to improve planning laws to provide better support for the industry.

Galilee wants the NSW government to fix the current planning system with a more effective and consistent mining system to prevent the economic fallout that PwC predicts.

“The mining industry fully expects thorough assessment of mining projects. However unnecessary delays and endless legal challenges are putting jobs, investment, and royalties at risk,” Galilee said.

But a Department of Planning and Infrastructure spokesman said the research and the Council’s conclusions showed they were exaggerating alleged mining project delays because it did not consider the time companies took to compile their applications and reply to submissions.

 “Additionally several of the mining projects mentioned in the submission involved complex issues where the proponents had failed to adequately address potential impacts,” the spokesman said.

“In these cases, it was necessary for the department to subject the projects to further examination.”

Galilee said many members of the council had consulted with various ministers to express their anxieties directly.

“It is also fair to say that there are still some sections of the government who don’t seem to understand that mining is a strategic industry for NSW and is fundamentally important to the strength of the economy.”

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