Productivity Commission mulls industry feedback

THE Productivity Commission is modifying its recommendations to the federal government regarding proposals to bolster mineral exploration based on industry feedback.

Justin Niessner
Productivity Commission mulls industry feedback

Speaking at the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies convention in Perth, Productivity Commission deputy chairman Mike Woods said that the group’s final report – to be submitted to the government this month – would include a number of changes after mining industry professionals reacted to a draft version in May.

Woods said “significant” feedback from the resources industry had spurred the commission to put greater emphasis on the development of information technology application for improving exploration while reducing emphasis on proposals related to assistance in amalgamating small, irregularly-shaped tenements into more significant and consolidated properties.

The repeal of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act which was forecast in the May draft, meanwhile, was rejected by industry respondents in favour of a plan for states and territories to become accredited under the act.

A suggestion to promote a New South Wales cost-saving program which allows for the government to fund the collection of pre-competitive data and then charge users for the information was also shot down.

“They’ve come to us quite forcefully to suggest that there are really some very poor ideas embedded in that process,” Woods said.

While Woods would not confirm the inclusion of these suggestions in the report, he noted in his presentation to AMEC delegates today that feedback from the draft report would influence changes on the final submission.

Expanding on the concepts of reducing duplicative processes and streamlining regulations sketched in the draft report, he identified several focal points which would define the driving goals of the commission’s submission on fostering improvement in exploration.

Woods said there was significant room for improvement in making understood the criteria by which an exploration licence is considered and the decision-making process of agencies and ministers.

“How can you have any certainty putting in an application if you don’t understand what the rules of the game are in the way that the application is decided,” he said.

Decisions made on these criteria are then to be made more transparent in the interest of improving confidence that the rules are being followed. Time-saving in the assessment process was also suggested to be improved through more detailed publishing of timeframes.

“Any significant decision needs to be provided with reasons that are transparent and relate back to the criteria,” Woods said.

“If there is reporting on when the application is lodged, where it is in the current stream of approvals that are required, how long did it take there – all of that public reporting gives a lot more accountability of the agencies to operate in the most efficient manner.”

Lead agencies were flagged as an important tool in helping exploration companies through application processes.

Woods acknowledged momentum in a number of states to develop lead agency programs and noted models in Western and South Australia already attracting attention.

“Rather than battling any one of 144 pieces of legislation that might exist around Australia … you’ve got a lead agency for a major project who can say, ‘we’ll work you through the system to expedite that process’,” he said.

Woods also emphasised that before areas were excluded from exploration, a full understanding of the various values of the land must be achieved.

This was presented as a balancing of the social and commercial merits of the land while assessing exploration proposals on their actual impact rather than declaring a blanket ban on any form of exploration-related data collection.


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