The Victorian Division of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Loddon Mallee North Draft Regional Growth Plan (the Plan).

The region is set to benefit from the continuation and expansion of the mineral sands mining sector which is already highly active in Loddon Mallee North. Mineral sands mining activity in the region is substantial, including three deposits near Ouyen which are currently being mined. In addition to these, there are a number of advanced projects underway which should see the region’s identified mineral sands endowment increased and lead to regional production increases in coming years. It has been estimated that the Victorian part of the Murray Basin, much of which is in Loddon Mallee North, contains more than 60 million tonnes of coarse-grained mineral sand deposits and more than 200 million tonnes of fine-grained deposits with the potential to support several long-life mining operations1.

The region also has great potential to become a centre of activity for the Victorian minerals industry. It is a highly prospective gold province, as identified in the State Government’s Gold Undercover project, potentially hosting tens of millions of ounces of gold. Creating a region which is supportive and inviting of the minerals industry will assist in establishing conditions which may enable the discovery of economically viable deposits. In addition, substantial deep lignite seams have been identified in the region, representing significant development potential.

For a regional growth and development strategy to be both successful and comprehensive the minerals industry needs be included and considered as important to local economic development as agriculture, retail or any other key industry.

It is at the local planning scheme that local council and the minerals industry intersects. Under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act (MR(SD) Act) exploration work can be undertaken without the need for a planning permit. Mining projects are however required to gain planning approval before the work plan can be approved. Planning approval can be gained through a planning permit issued by the local government authority or through an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) completed under the direction of the Minister for Planning. Local governments also have a role in administering the native vegetation management framework on behalf of the government.

The majority of regulations impacting on exploration and mining projects are administered by the State. For some projects Commonwealth regulations also apply. Whilst we acknowledge this demarcation of responsibilities there is often very little communication and knowledge sharing across the levels of government to enable efficient, effective and timely decision making. This inquiry therefore offers an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to drive economic development across the State.

The Loddon Mallee North Draft Regional Growth Plan is a comprehensive document that examines a wide range of factors which will be integral to the development and growth of the region over for the next few decades.

The Victorian Minerals industry has traditionally been and will continue to be an important contributor to Victoria’s growth, particularly in regional and rural Victoria, as such it has an important role to play in the growth of the region.

Overall the MCA sees the Plan as a good strategy for the region’s future in that it addresses the region’s development requirements though a wide lens, identifying that future prosperity will be delivered by a diverse economy, an increased population, the development of regional infrastructure, and through supporting a vibrant community. 

The role that the minerals industry can play in Loddon Mallee North’s growth in the coming decades should be fully integrated through the Plan. In some sections of the Plan it is noted that the minerals industry has a key role to play in the region’s growth alongside the region’s other key industries, while in other sections, the minerals industry is not considered as either a current or future benefactor for the region. The reasons for this inconsistency are unclear to the MCA and we recommend that the Plan be amended to ensure that the minerals industry receives the same consistent consideration and attention as other major industries.

The MCA looks forward to engaging with the Department in further developing and implementing the Plan.

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