The Australian mining industry strongly supports greater government investment in sound science and improved understanding of the nation’s water sources. However it needs to be stated at the outset and in the specific context of this review that the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) considers that impacts on water resources are not restricted to a single industry, nor is the coal industry such a significant user of water resources that would warrant specific and additional regulatory focus.

While the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) may be perceived as providing an additional level of ‘confidence’ in water resource management, the narrow focus may result in community misconceptions about the relative impacts of coal mining compared with other water users, and broader water management objectives risk not being fulfilled.

The performance of the NPA with respect to the advisory role of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) can be characterised by the following:

IESC processes are largely duplicative of existing state government assessment requirements, yet come at an additional cost and time burden for proponents and regulators/taxpayers.
Significant uncertainty remains in the referral and assessment process, driven by the Committee’s broad mandate and uncertainty around the how significant impacts are defined.
Advice provided by the IESC has been of marginal value in terms of improved water resource management. This is driven by a lack of industry context, technical detail in the advice provided and is compounded by the inability for proponents to respond directly to the Committee to address perceived information gaps.

In this submission, which is supported by the Queensland Resources Council and the NSW Minerals Council, the MCA provides a number of recommendations aimed at improving the efficiency of the IESC and effectiveness of its advice to regulators.

Download complete article