The Beattie Government announced several new initiatives in the 2002-2003 budget to “manage natural resources and boost mining”, including an allocation of $9.2 million in extra funding over four years to “attract new mining exploration by providing greater access to land through streamlined native title processes and development of geoscience data and information using the latest technology”
However, QMC chief executive Michael Pinnock said this oblique reference to new spending on improvements to the state’s ineffective native title approval processes was all the industry had seen of the government’s new measures. He and other industry representatives have been sharply critical in the past two years of the Beattie Government’s inaction on land access problems besetting mineral exploration in Queensland. Despite the recent granting of exploration permits in northern Queensland, approval of new licences for areas subject to native title access agreements has all but dried up in the Sunshine State.
Pinnock said the council was looking for specifics relating to the proposed expenditure on the generation of new geoscience data. And he said the industry wanted adequate resourcing for government departments and other parties charged with sorting out the native title induced imbroglio surrounding the granting of new exploration permits. The budget needed a spending allocation of $7 million a year for the next five years for Queensland to “catch up with Western Australia and New South Wales, especially WA”, Pinnock said.
Despite the widespread criticism of government attempts to revive exploration spending in Queensland over the past 18 months — exploration spending was last year said to be down $250 million over the past five years — and the Beattie Government’s admission in its budget press statement that the mining industry contributed more than $9.4 billion a year to gross state product and produced 54% of total state merchandise exports, the “extra $9.2 million over four years” to attract new mining exploration was the only meaningful initiative announced in the budget.
Mines minister Stephen Robertson’s statement that “we will undertake a number of initiatives to maintain the strength and growth of the Queensland mining industry” had a hollow ring indeed.