RED TAPE REDUCTION – CLEARLY NOT FOR THE MINERALS INDUSTRY

It is profoundly disappointing that the Independent Inquiry into the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Report has recommended even more red tape for the Victorian mining industry

While other jurisdictions have completed or are actively working to streamline regulatory processes to improve regulation efficiency of the minerals industry, Victoria is doing the exact opposite.

The Victorian Division of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) strongly urges the Government not to accept these specific recommendations in the Report. 

The Report contends that ‘...the mining industry (does not) face the same level of environmental regulation as other industries with a similar risk profile or scale.”  This is clearly inaccurate. The minerals industry is one of the most highly regulated industries and must abide by all State and relevant Commonwealth environmental laws.    

The MCA’s submission to the Inquiry clearly showed that the EPA does not possess the technical ability to advise on the range of complex issues considered in licensing the minerals industry.  Inaccurate or inconsistent advice provided by the EPA and a lack of decision making capability causes significant delays and impacts the operability of sites.  The sector most recently experienced this when the EPA took eleven months to determine that a specific project did not require an EPA works approval or licence. 

The EPA does not have the ability to be responsible for compliance and enforcement of the environmental conditions on a mining site and rehabilitation requirements - there are a number of environmental conditions that clearly do not fit within the EPA’s remit including native vegetation clearance and biodiversity offsets.  Furthermore there are many technical non-environmental considerations in rehabilitation plans that EPA would not have the capacity to assess.

Rather than an efficient, whole of government regulatory regime, the industry is experiencing a further fracturing of the approval process with each regulator not only protecting their ‘patch’ but expanding it.  Everything recommended by the Inquiry related to the minerals industry is already regulated by one or more state regulators. 

The Report indeed states this: “The changes we propose will affect the regulatory burden facing Victoria’s mine operators.”  We see from a decade’s worth of annual global investor sentiment surveys[1] that Victoria continues to rank extremely poorly particularly when it comes to three key indices:

  • Uncertainty concerning the  administration, interpretation and enforcement of existing regulations
  • Uncertainty concerning environmental regulations
  • Regulatory duplication and inconsistencies

These recommendations, if adopted by Government, will do nothing to improve Victoria’s standing. 

Unless the powers and functions of the Earth Resources Regulator (which the report recommends) and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning are removed and a true one-stop-shop for regulation of the minerals industry is established via the EPA, these recommendations cannot be agreed to by Government. 

 

[1] Green, P, K.  Jackson, T., Fraser Institute, Survey of Mining Companies: 2015

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