Victorian miners catch a break

VICTORIA’S Earth Resources Regulation is deferring the collection of rent and annual fees worth $3.5 million until January to help preserve the cash flow of the state’s mines, quarries and exploration companies and help them deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Victorian mines minister Jaclyn Symes (centre).

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This move follows the Victorian government's decision to freeze all fee increases that were due to come into effect in July.

The government believes its infrastructure agenda and continued record minerals exploration will play a significant role as the state's economy rebuilds and recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Minerals Council of Australia executive director James Sorahan said the government's targeted short-term measures to help mineral exploration activity continued through the COVID-19 pandemic would keep the pipeline of new projects open.

"Victoria's explorers and miners with exploration tenements are facing significant disruptions including to people movement and equipment access as a result of COVID-19," he said.

"Difficulties accessing ground have made it challenging for some explorers to meet their licence conditions through no fault of their own.

"Exploration investment is also coming under pressure as capital markets become more risk-averse.

"A temporary reduction in fees, charges and rents will free up funds for exploration drilling and reinvestment in mining operations.

"The ability to work with the government on licence conditions means a fair go for explorers.

"This announcement builds on the excellent work of Geological Survey of Victoria and the government's successful Target grant program.

"A revival in exploration is critical to Victoria's recovery. Exploration works must continue to secure future mines and jobs in exploration, mining and minerals processing in regional Victoria."

On the quarry front the government believes it will play a vital role in its Building Works package, which provides $2.7 billion towards hundreds of shovel-ready projects to help create jobs to get people back to work.

The quarry sector will have to unearth the rock, sand and stone needed for this building blitz.

The government will also streamline planning to help strategically important quarries to grow and new sites to be developed, to aid the flow of raw materials over the coming years.

ERR already has a streamlined approval pathway for minor changes to existing quarries.

It is going to fast-track the approval process for works to supply critical material for infrastructure projects at a time when businesses are facing additional pressure.

The regulator will consider the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic in its decision-making process for licence and authority approvals, and for changes to licence and authority conditions such as expenditure requirements.

Victorian resources minister Jaclyn Symes said the state's resources sector businesses had done a fantastic job to keep the industry operating.

"This is a practical way that we can ease the pressure on them and help keep people in jobs," she said.

"Ensuring that our quarry sector can continue to grow and invest means it supports local jobs, communities and our infrastructure agenda."

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