More for Queensland minerals

As crisis talks between the Queensland Department of Mines and Energy, Unions, and key mining industry stakeholders continue, Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson took time out to speak to MINING DAILY editor Daniel Hall.

Hall: The first of the crisis talks happened a few weeks ago, what has happened since then, and are you happy with the progress of the talks?

Minister: I am very happy with the progress.

The talks are a very important working party for the mining industry; for the mining industry to ensure that there is good communication between all of the stakeholders and ensure that we are working together in trying to relieve the worst impacts of the financial crisis on the mining industry and associated regional economies and communities.

There are four key projects happening in various Queensland government departments, and they are each reporting to their responsible ministers.

Firstly, the Rapid Response Team initiative is happening with the Department of Employment and Training.

Secondly, there’s a special program of assistance being developed for apprentices through the Department of Education and Training.

Thirdly, $27 million in funding has been brought forward under the $100 million Sustainable Communities Program, and that’s managed under the Department of Regional Development.

Fourthly there’s mining applications, and that’s being handled by the Department of Mines and Energy (DME), in consultation with other relevant departments.

The working parties that have been established get a report each fortnight, making sure that there is one central point of reference and clearing house for information on those different initiatives, with all of the industry stakeholders in the one room.

What is the Queensland Government doing to streamline mining application in the State?

The DME project aims at streamlining the existing applications that are already in the system. That initiative is progressing very well, and at this point we are able to target about eleven major projects for fast tracking through the approvals process.

I want to reinforce that due diligence will always be observed.

What we want to do is eliminate dead time and unnecessary delay between each step in the approval process.

At this stage, the eleven that have been targeted as the first group, has been arrived at in consultation with the Queensland Resources Council, the DME and the relevant mining companies.

We are cutting red tape, we are streamlining with the objective that the approvals are finished a lot sooner than they otherwise would be, so that those mines are ready to commence construction and production as the economy returns to a growth cycle, and as economic circumstances permit.

A lot of activity has been happening to address the immediate impact on jobs, but what we are also doing now is taking action to address opportunities for longer term jobs.

The economy will pick up again, because we have a robust and absolutely vital resource sector in Queensland.

Will there be permanent changes to the approvals processes as a result of the DME’s current activities in streamlining approvals?

We have an open mind to maximizing efficiency.

This is not an exercise in changing the requirements for approval; this is an exercise in looking at the bureaucratic process and eliminating the unnecessary delay. However, there is another initiative that has just been commenced.

The streamlining project that is happening now is basically doing an audit of all of the applications that are currently in the system, and the DME is asking the mining industry which projects they want to push as a priority.

That’s dealing with existing applications in the system.

The Premier has also written to me and my cabinet colleagues directing that the DME become the lead agency for the approval of all mining applications through the Government, except the ones that are required to go through the Coordinator General, because they are major projects that attract designation as Projects of State significance.

This represents around 10% of applications.

The Coordinator General process is a very streamlined process.

The applications that do not go through the Coordinator General will go through the DME, which will now be the lead agency in case managing all of those applications from the date of filing to the date of final approval, through the DME, the EPA and all other relevant departments. This is an important structural reform targeting the most important of the existing applications. This is actually a change in responsibility.

I will be expecting the DME to perform to worlds best practice standard.

It is important that government, with experience and leadership, sets a good example to the community that we are tackling these challenges, and we will not leave any stone unturned to protect jobs, and to create new jobs.

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