Red tape to cost jobs
THREE significant development projects facing 12 month delays.
Wednesday 16 November 2016
AT least two mining companies on the cusp of major brownfield mine expansions say recent changes to the approvals process for water will cause delays of up to twelve months, and put at risk hundreds of jobs.
This week the Queensland Parliament passed the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (EPOLA), which effectively introduces a new approvals process and licence for new mining projects seeking to exploit underground water.
While the mining industry has said it broadly supports better managing water resources, it’s concerned that the wording and its retrospective nature, will lead to duplication and endless court challenges.
New Hope Managing Director Shane Stephan said the legislation increases the amount of green tape faced by resource companies and is likely to cause at least a further 12 months delay in getting approval for Stage 3 of the New Acland mine.
“As a result of the passing of the EPOLA, New Acland will need to apply for an associated water licence,” he said.
“The process includes public submissions and the potential for further Land Court proceedings causing further delays.
“Further delays associated with the additional approval is likely to put at serious risk the jobs of over 300 employees and contractors and have a devastating effect on the whole local community.”
Before the bill passed Parliament, Rio Tinto made a submission arguing that it would force them to repeat work already done.
"Environmental impact assessment work for these projects, including in respect of groundwater impacts, has already been completed by Rio Tinto, assessed by the regulator and considered by the public,” they argued.
"A requirement to obtain an associated water licence is an unnecessary additional regulatory layer that carries with it no commensurate environmental benefit.”
Rio Tinto has plans to expand open cut and underground mining operations at Hail Creek, and develop the southern area of its Kestrel mine, giving it access to another 54 million tonnes of coal, extending the mine's lifespan by around seven years.
Both projects have a mining lease and environmental approval, but under this new legislation will now have to go back and apply for a water licence.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) Regional Manager, Les Cox says the new legislation would also empower the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to amend environmental authorities of all mining projects in the future.“AMEC understands and supports the need for rigorous scrutiny of resource projects but believes that the increased reporting and monitoring requirements in the Bill, coupled with the high probability of more lengthy delays and less certainty in the approvals processes, will have a direct negative effect on investor confidence.”