WA makes changes to speed up mining approvals

10th June 2022 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian government will move to accelerate exploration and mining approvals following a significant increase in applications this financial year. 

The Approvals Response Plan, developed by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, will focus on prioritising the assessment and approvals of Programmes of Work applications, Mining Proposals and Native Vegetation Clearing Permits.

Programme of Work applications proposing exploration activities have increased by 42% during the period with 450 applications received in March 2022, while Mining Proposals have increased by 10%

The Approvals Response Plan will redirect a number of regulatory functions and resources to support the assessment processes. 

It will defer all revisions or post-approval Mine Closure Plan submissions required under the Mining Act which are considered lower risk, for a 12-month period from July 1, 2022 to June 2023, and individual companies will be notified accordingly.

“The high number of mining applications is another clear indication that Western Australia's resources sector is growing from strength to strength. Ongoing responsible and sustainable exploration and mining activities are essential to maintaining the sector's strong performance,” Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

“The Approval Response Plan's redirection of departmental resources will give the industry confidence in the timeframe for key resource sector approvals. Exploration approvals will be prioritised to bring them back on track by the end of September 2022. Other approvals will meet their timeframe targets by the end of this year.”

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) has welcomed the announcement, with acting CEO Rob Carruthers saying the plan was welcome news.

“We understand there are a variety of pressures on government department resources at this time, not the least the impact of a tight labour market. But exploration development approvals are absolutely crucial to the Western Australian mining and resources sector being able to provide the extremely significant contributions it makes to State and Federal economies, and communities right across the country.

“Timely and consistent regulatory approvals and processes are also integral to major companies and investors being willing to make the types of funding commitments required to develop large-scale projects.

“There are currently A$156-billion in projects in the Western Australian resources pipeline and each of these will be a very strong future source of employment and economic benefits for communities across our state if they can be brought to fruition.

“We thank the Western Australia government for their willingness to take tangible steps to improve regulatory processing and approval timelines to ensure Western Australia retains its hard-won position as a globally competitive resources jurisdiction,” said Carruthers.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (Amec) also welcomed the response plan, with CEO Warren Pearce saying the industry body had been advocating for these measures over the past 12 months.

“There is now a substantial backlog of mining and exploration applications awaiting assessment and approval, which is delaying these activities and related investment. We are pleased that the government has begun shifting gears and managing its resourcing so that it can maintain high regulatory standards and meet timeframes,” said Pearce.

“It is an incredibly busy time for industry at the moment, and there are a lot of Programme of Works being applied for as explorers are looking to get on to the ground and drill.”

Peace said that this reallocation of resources was one key step to managing the swell in approvals, but noted that there were systematic reforms that were waiting in the wings.

“The Mining Amendment Bill is currently waiting for debate in Parliament and needs to be prioritised. The Bill contains a range of administrative improvements that will significantly assist both industry and the government, as well as a notification process for low-risk activities in non-sensitive environmental areas.

“We are also keen to see StreamlineWA deliver on its promise to cut red tape and reduce administrative burden across a range of approvals,” said Pearce.

“Today the government has sensibly shifted staff and resources to support industry as it goes through a growth period, this is a common-sense approach to managing a peak period.”