Mining councils challenge environmental act for post-COVID-19 recovery

The Minerals Council of Australia is among mining councils that have called for a reform of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to aid a better environment, more jobs and faster economic recovery.

According to MCA chief executive Tania Constable, reforms to the operation of the EPBC Act are needed to address unnecessary duplication and complexity.

This in turn will provide businesses and the wider community with greater certainty, while still achieving the required environmental outcomes.

In 2016, the State of the Environment report found that under the EPBC Act, the “status of biodiversity in Australia is generally considered poor and deteriorating.”

This uncertainty deters investment and increases costs, limiting job opportunities and economic benefits from mining in regional communities, according to Constable.

“A one-year delay to a project can reduce its net present value by between 10 and 13 per cent per year,” she said.

“For large mining projects, with a value from $3 billion to $4 billion, delay costs can be up to $1 million per day.

“Pragmatic reforms to the EPBC Act will help reduce delays in project approvals, stimulate investment and fast-track the major projects needed for Australia’s speedy post-COVID recovery.”

MCA is not alone in challenging the act, having made a submission to review backed up by the New South Wales Minerals Council, Queensland Resources Council, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy and Tasmanian Minerals.

The reforms suggested by these bodies include eliminating or reducing duplication and ensuring consistency between commonwealth, state and territory processes; reducing delays in assessment and approval processes; improving certainty for proponents, government and communities; and ensuring fit-for-purpose regulation rather than lower environmental standards.

“Reforms to the Act are long overdue and numerous reviews over the past decade have repeatedly highlighted opportunities to improve regulatory efficiency by addressing unnecessary duplication and complexity, while maintaining strong environmental protections,” Constable concluded.

“An improved EPBC Act would build on positive recent government initiatives to reduce delays by integrating environmental data and establishing a digital platform for environmental assessment with Western Australia and additional resourcing to address the backlog of projects under assessment.”

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