The Queensland Government has today announced an overhaul of the coal and minerals exploration approvals process, billed to halve exploration permit wait times.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said the new process could potentially halve the time it takes for companies to secure an exploration permit.
“We have listened to requests from the resources sector for faster, more efficient approval timeframes and we are delivering,” he said.
Recognising that mining is critical to Queensland’s economy Cripps said streamlining the red tape will allow mining companies to “get on with business”.
He noted that rigorous environmental, native title and land access assessments will be maintained under the new process.
“For example, the more streamlined process means exploration permits subject to native title can be decided in less than 12 months, while permits not subject to native title can be determined in six months or sooner,” Cripps said.
“This is a significant reduction on the average 22 months it currently takes for an exploration permit application to be processed to the stage where it can be granted or rejected.”
Under the new process companies will now be formally advised within 90 days of lodgement whether their proposed exploration works program has been either approved or rejected.
Where successful applications are not subject to native title, once the work program has been approved and an environmental authority has been issued, a permit can be granted after annual rent has been paid.
For applications subject to native title, companies can now start the required native title processes and engage landholders about conduct and compensation arrangements a lot earlier.
“It means mining companies no longer need to wait until an exploration permit is granted before engaging with landholders about their proposed exploration activities,” Cripps said.
“Those discussions can now happen much earlier, giving rural producers more time to consider and negotiate land access and conduct and compensation agreements put to them by resource companies.”
Once the native title process is completed permit applications can then be finalised within 30 days.
Cripps stressed that no exploration activities can begin in an area before a permit has been granted.
“Applications to explore will still be subject to the same stringent assessment process to ensure they meet strict environmental, technical and commercial viability, community interest, native title and land access requirements,” he said.
“A granted exploration permit is not a right to mine, and the Queensland Resources Council estimates that approximately only one in every 200 granted exploration permits ever goes on to become a mine.”
Australia’s national resource industry employer group, AMMA, welcomed the overhaul saying the administrative efficiencies will be beneficial for explorers.
“It currently averages almost two years for a resources company to get a response on whether its minerals exploration permit in Queensland has been approved or rejected,” AMMA executive director Scott Barklamb said.
“For an industry that directly employs 75,000 people in Queensland and many more in allied construction and servicing sectors, the current delay is simply not good enough.”
Barklamb said for Australia to be able to compete for industry investment globally streamlining is critical to restoring the sector’s competitive edge which he says has “been eroded in recent years”.
“AMMA commends the Queensland Government for leading the way on more efficient and competitive regulatory and administrative processes,” Barklamb said.
“We are confident these proactive moves by our states, when implemented alongside the Abbott Government’s Exploration Development Incentive scheme, will breathe new life into Australia’s exploration sector.”