The West Australian Government’s latest budget held both good and poor news for the resources industry, as the state also puts forward a new mining bill inquiry.
While both the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy West Australia (CME WA) welcomed aspects of the new mining amendment bill, they warned that ongoing changes would delay legislation, causing a negative effect on the mining industry.
“The Legislative Council’s Legislation Committee handed down 26 findings and 18 recommendations following submissions and public hearings held in Perth and Kalgoorlie in April to examine the Bill,” CME explained.
However CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith warned of the potentially damaging effects the adoption of all the recommendations would have.
“Addressing the Committee’s long list of recommendations will delay the removal of unnecessary red tape and streamlining of environmental approvals which was the original intent of the Bill,” Howard-Smith said.
“This includes a recommendation for the definition of low-impact activities to be incorporated as a schedule to the Mining Act and compulsory aspects of ‘guidelines’ to be addressed as requirements in the Act itself or in regulations.
“This more prescriptive approach may lead to inefficiencies in the future application of the legislation and introduce further red tape for industry.”
AMEC also warned of increasing delays in implementing the new legislation, partly due to new state mine minister Sean L’Estrange working through the 26 findings and 18 recommendations.
“One of the most pressing matters that the minister needs to finalise is a threshold for ‘low impact’ activity. As described in the Committee Report, AMEC has recommended 10 hectares (excluding environmentally sensitive areas) which is similar to that described in the Environmental Protection (Native Vegetation Clearing) Regulations,” AMEC said.
“We note that although the Committee acknowledged that the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) has the ability to charge fees through the existing provisions of the Mining Act, it did not recommend removal of the specific clauses empowering the ability to create assessment fees for Programmes of Work and Mining Proposals.
“As the previous mines and petroleum minister indicated that the implementation of such fees would only be deferred, AMEC remains extremely concerned that the departmental budget shortfall of $2.7 million per annum to implement, and staff, its Reforming Environment Regulation agenda will be met through other means, such as a non-transparent hike in other DMP tenement rentals, fees or charges.”
This particular concern has been addressed following the release of Western Australia’s latest budget.
One of the positive turns for the industry in the budget was the announcement of $30 million in funding from 2017 to 2020 for the Exploration Incentive Scheme, which encourages exploration in the state.
“The support of the EIS also perfectly complements the $100 million announced in the Federal Budget last week for the Exploring for the Future initiative which enables Geoscience Australia to make available pre-competitive data for State based geological survey divisions and industry,” AMEC said.
Iron ore also saw a boost, with $41 million allocated over three years for a Magnetite Financial Assistance package, which comprises a 50 per cent rebate of royalty payments, on a case by case basis.
“In view of the current economic climate, there is a clear case for a similar scheme to be made available for other commodity groups, such as nickel,” AMEC stated.
However, the lobby group voiced its disappointment over increasing tenement rental charges.
“It is disappointing that this approach has been taken to meet the $2.77 million shortfall in budget revenue for the 2016/17 year caused by additional staff being appointed to implement the Reforming Environmental Regulation (RER) agenda – which has also been held up by the stalling of the Amendment Bill in Parliament.”