Qld green tape cuts win industry praise

THE Queensland government’s decision to introduce measures to streamline the environmental impact statement and social impact assessment processes for large resource projects has been welcomed by the local mining industry.

Lou Caruana

It comes as Rio Tinto energy chief Harry Kenyon-Slaney complains that new taxes, royalty increases and delays in government approvals are significant cost burdens that threaten the coal industry’s ability to remain competitive.

At last week’s spot price of $135 a tonne, Queensland producers would be paying 20% more in royalties than five years ago.

“More widely, the cost of complying with new regulations, much of it well-meaning but nevertheless costly, has risen relentlessly,” he said.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the introduction of risk-based, generic terms of reference for EIS processes was expected to translate into a significant reduction in unnecessary costs and delays to major resource projects.

“What we are seeing again from this government is a commitment to outcomes over process in the shared interests of industry, communities and the environment,” he said.

“The key rider is that they do not compromise on the regulation of activities determined as being moderate to high risk.

“This risk-based approach is helping to bring Queensland into line with other world leading resource jurisdictions.”

Roche said Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, Natural Resources and Mines Assistant Minister Lisa France, Coordinator-General Barry Broe and Environment and departments of Heritage Protection, State Development, Infrastructure and Planning worked closely with QRC members throughout every stage of the reform process.

“The end result being a world-class assessment process that will save time and money while ensuring scarce government resources stay focused on delivering better environmental and social outcomes,” Roche said.

Association of Mining & Exploration Companies regional manager Bernie Hogan said the Queensland government had listened to the needs of explorers and miners in reducing the complexity and bureaucracy involved with the EIS process.

“The new simplified terms of reference focus on the critical matters and remove overly prescriptive and duplicate requirements,” he said.

“This will reduce the cost of preparing EIS statements and help increase investment in Queensland’s resources sector.”

Though the paperwork involved had been reduced, environmental standards would not change, Hogan said.

“Communities will also have greater say in how companies ‘give back’ through local area infrastructure plans,” he said.

“This gives companies confidence they are participating in community endorsed projects to improve the area they operate in.

“These changes should allow companies to focus on what really matters to their communities, rather than be tied into standardised systems that suited neither the community nor the company.

“While this is a good start to reducing the red tape in duplication and cost of approvals, much more is needed to have a significant impact on the industry.

“These changes will now be road-tested by industry to assess the improvements in the EIS process.”