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Former Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority chief Barry Carbon has labelled the state’s mining project approval system as “corrupt”.
Speaking to the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, Carbon said miners were being “blackmailed” into making financial contributions to secure environmental approvals.
He said the contributions, or “offsets”, were sometimes worth millions and had become standard practice in the industry.
Carbon said demands for offsets had previously been rare and had occurred only to compensate unavoidable environmental damage.
He also hit out at Government officials, and said environmental assessment reports often did not get read because they were too long.
In September WA auditor general Colin Murphy also criticised offsets in his mining industry compliance review.
He said poor Government monitoring was risking offsets being seen as a “means to buy project approval or extract money from proponents”.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel told PerthNow offsets were designed to deliver an environmental benefit and the authority took a “dim view” of offsets that did not.
WA environment minister Bill Marmion said he was confident the EPA was thorough and transparent in dealing with offsets.
He said the Government demanded a high level of accountability and the EPA had already done much to improve its offsets policy.