CHANGES TO PROJECT APPROVALS LAWS ARE UNNECESSARY AND UNWELCOME

The Minerals Council of Australia strongly opposes the Federal Government's planned changes to the Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act relating to large coal mining developments and water resources.

The proposed inclusion of a water trigger in the Act is a direct duplication of the role of the Independent Expert Scientific Advisory Committee and will lead to greater uncertainty and delays for large coal projects for no environmental gain.

The legislative power to add environmental safeguards to these projects in relation to their impact on water resources currently exists. There is no need to increase the regulatory burden on the sector.

Today's announcement shows that the Federal Government is more focussed on increasing the bureaucratic constraints on the coal sector rather than creating the right regulatory environment to expand the industry; creating more jobs and national income.

The proposed changes will do nothing to enhance Australia's reputation as an investment destination. Project approval times in Australia are already well in excess of the international average and the plan put forward today will simply add to those delays for no environmental gain.

The planned changes come after similar proposals from The Greens and Tony Windsor MP were rejected by Government members of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry committee.

In 2010 the New South Wales Government initiated a study to measure the likely impact of possible coal mining and coal seam gas development on the Namoi Water Catchment in north-eastern NSW. The study concluded in 2012. It found that: "At current levels of development, extensive regional scale impacts on water resources are unlikely."

The report went on to note that even with the most expansive growth scenario for major coal and CSG projects, the impact on the region's water resources would be "a relatively low impact when compared to existing anthropogenic water impacts".

The minerals industry will be urging the Federal Government not to proceed with these unnecessary changes.