MINERALS DEVELOPMENT DELAYS COSTING REGIONAL VICTORIA

Much-needed new jobs and investment in regional Victoria are being delayed – or missed – by antiquated approvals processes and uncertainty together with the Victorian Government’s permanent ban on all onshore unconventional gas exploration and development.

Despite Victoria’s minerals prospectivity, the state’s international attractiveness as a destination for minerals investment continues to fall.  And existing projects, including in East Gippsland, are languishing due to slow decision-making and poor coordination between agencies.

One example is the Kalbar Fingerboards Mineral Sands project, located not far from the Latrobe Valley near Glenaladale on the Wellington and East Gippsland Shire border – a project that plans to extract ore from one of the largest and highest grade mineral sands deposits in the world for processing into heavy mineral concentrate.  Over an initial mine life of 20 years, the mine could provide direct jobs for 110 people and a further 200 across the region.  This is in addition to employment of 250 people during construction. 

However, cumbersome processes are leading to project delays which hamper employment and business opportunities for regional Victorians. Opportunities are being missed at the very time the closure of Hazelwood power station puts jobs and the economic future of the Latrobe Valley in doubt.  

At the same time, the Victorian Government’s regressive energy policies – including its anti-science ban on unconventional gas exploration and development – are sending a chill through the entire Victorian mining industry.

The reality being experienced on the ground is completely different to Victoria’s stated policy position.

Just last year, the Regional Economic Development and services review, chaired by The Hon John Brumby, recognised the potential for development of Victoria’s earth resources, such as mineral sands, to ‘drive inclusive and create regional jobs’. The review laid out key reform priorities, including transformative activities to improve Victoria’s international competitiveness by reducing lengthy and costly delays while maintaining safety, health and environmental protections.

Yet action to take advantage of this opportunity was absent from the Government’s resulting priority–setting Regional Statement.

Without reform, Victoria will miss its chance to turn growing global demand for its minerals, such as mineral sands and gold, into high-skill, high-wage jobs and investment.  

In the interim, the Victorian Government should at least appoint a designated agency to focus on how best to bring forward the benefits of the state’s minerals endowment.

This would be the first critical step forward and a welcome departure from a series of regressive moves. 

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