Australia to review environmental protection act

Barrick/Newmont’s Fimiston open-pit gold mine in Western Australia. (Image by Popo le Chien, Wikimedia Commons).

The Australian government just launched an independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, a process whose outcome may impact the mineral resources sector. 

According to the Ministry of Environment, the idea of the review is “to tackle green tape and deliver greater certainty to business groups, farmers and environmental organisations.”

“The Act has been a world benchmark in environmental protection but needs to be adapted to changes in the environment and economy”

Ministry of environment

In a media statement, the government body acknowledged that the complexities of the Act are leading to unnecessary delays in reaching decisions and to an increased focus on process rather than outcomes.

“Delays in EPBC decisions are estimated to cost the economy around $300 million a year and frustrate both business and environmental groups,” the media brief reads. “The Act has been a world benchmark in environmental protection but needs to be adapted to changes in the environment and economy.”

The review will be conducted over the course of the next year and will be led by Graeme Samuel, a Professorial Fellow at Monash University’s Business School and School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine. Samuel will be supported by a panel of experts who will help him draft a report for the Minister of Environment within the next 12 months.

In response to this announcement, Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, issued a communiqué deeming the review necessary.

“Australia’s world-leading minerals industry is committed to the protection of our unique environment,” Constable wrote. “Yet, regulatory complexity and duplication – including overlapping state and federal laws – delay minerals projects and reduce global competitiveness without improving environmental protection.”

In the executive’s view, reforms that boost environmental protection in the country need to be sensible “to enhance business confidence and unlock minerals investment.”

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