Commonwealth pledges $128.5m to streamline environmental approvals

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Australia’s mining industry has welcomed the Federal Government’s recent plan to protect the environment while supporting economic recovery and creating jobs in regional communities.

The Federal Government this week announced a $128.5 million Budget reform package to provide greater certainty around environmental protection, strengthen compliance, and streamline assessment and decision-making processes.

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) chief executive officer Tania Constable said the announcement to modernise the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) is a welcome boost for more timely project approvals and better environmental outcomes.

“These changes will help provide greater certainty for businesses to invest in regional Australia, supporting local communities, jobs and furthering sustainable development,” Constable said.

“The establishment of an advisory committee to provide expert industry advice will improve understanding of industry, including minerals development within EPBC Act processes.

“The minerals industry has long-advocated a coordinated approach to environmental assessments and approval processes, founded in reliable data, effective administration, modern systems and processes.”

The package will include $62.3 million to be used in the investment of regional plans in 10 priority development regions, $28.4 million will support informed decision making, while $37.9 million will be used to support the streamlining of assessment processes including to progress single touch approval process.

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) chief executive officer Warren Pearce said the announcement is a step towards achieving an approvals framework that provides clarity and certainty for proponents to invest in new projects, while ensuring strong environmental safeguards.

“AMEC has been advocating to the government to prioritise the streamlining of assessments and processes, through a single touch approval process and it is especially pleasing to see Federal Government targeting this opportunity through this package,” Pearce said.

Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt highlighted the importance of regional planning in further streamlining environmental approvals.

“The 10 new regional plans will streamline development approvals, including those for crucial resources projects, by removing the need for a project-by-project approval under national environment law,” Pitt said.

“This will boost investor confidence by identifying areas within a particular region where development activities may be undertaken while ensuring that strong environmental protections are maintained.”

The announcement comes on top of a $47 million expansion of the Digital Environmental Assessment Program to ensure assessments are based on consistent data allowing them to be made more quickly and with greater transparency.

“These reforms will help reduce the unnecessary duplication and delay on environmental approvals without compromising environmental outcomes and allow the industry to continue to support the economic recovery of Australia,” Pearce said.

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