PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Queensland government would establish a Cabinet committee to look at lowering the regulatory burden and helping mining companies reduce operating costs, said Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney on Wednesday.
“This government is aggressively tackling over-regulation and clearing project approval backlogs,” he said.
The announcement comes amid a furore over the Queensland government’s decision to hike coal royalties. In a Budget speech delivered earlier this week, Treasurer Tim Nicholls announced that from October, the rate for coal royalties on coal valued at between A$100 and A$150 would be increased to 12.5% on the value per ton, and by 15% thereafter.
The move has been severely criticised by the industry, with the Queensland Resources Council warning that it risked more mine closures and losing more jobs.
The chairperson of mining major BHP Billiton, Jac Nasser, was quoted on Wednesday as saying that the new royalty rate was “disappointing and counterproductive”.
Nasser warned that the royalty hike reintroduced a level of uncertainty for investment in the state.
“I don’t think this is the right solution for the state or the industry,” Nasser was quoted as saying.
However, Nicholls said on Wednesday that the Queensland government had structured the mining royalty changes to ensure that there was no impact on mines producing low-value coal.
“The state royalty will be creditable against the minerals resource rent tax, under existing Australian government arrangements,” Nicholls said, adding that the state government guaranteed that coal royalties would not be increased again in the next ten years.
Meanwhile, Seeney noted that the state government’s budget would also boost Queensland’s skilled migration intake, and help mining exploration projects get off the ground.
The state has announced an analysis of its criteria for both state-sponsored skilled migration visas and business migration visas.
“Under Labor, Queensland has fallen behind other Australian states and today has some of the most onerous criteria for state-sponsored visas. Last financial year, Queensland sponsored only 212 visas, while 22 247 state-sponsored places were filled nationally,” said Seeney.
He noted that Queensland would also engage with the commonwealth government to increase its allocation of business visas.
Seeney further said mining exploration farm-ins would be exempt from paying transfer duties, under an initiative revealed in this year’s Budget.
“This 2012/13 Budget initiative will support smaller mining operators, and Queensland’s exploration industry more broadly, to help grow this vital sector of the economy. This decision is a massive win for industry bodies, including the Queensland Resources Council, who wrote to government requesting such a concession,” Seeney said.