Western Australia seeks to speed up mining project approvals

Photo courtesy of the Government of Western Australia.

Western Australia said on Tuesday it will overhaul its environmental permit system, aiming to speed up the development of new businesses critical to the transition to greener forms of energy.

As part of the reforms, the state environment minister will be able to fast-track decisions on projects of state significance, while government approvals processes will be able to run concurrent to environmental approvals instead of afterwards.

The state government is also looking to specify timeframes for decisions more broadly and will also take steps to reduce duplication of approvals with other departments, it said.

“Today’s announcement is a massive step forward to remove the green tape that has been holding back our industry and the State economy for years,” the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO Warren Pearce said.

The reforms come as the global push to cut carbon emissions boosts demand for metals like lithium and nickel, used in electric vehicle batteries, and green steel, while supply chain concerns redraw the map on where they are processed.

Mining CEOs including BHP boss Mike Henry have called on Australia to streamline regulation or risk being left behind as the United States, Europe, Canada offer wide-ranging support to develop their own industries,

Lithium miners such as Mineral Resources have hesitated to set up local processing plants, given more attractive policy settings elsewhere.

Western Australia supplies more than half of the world’s seaborne iron ore and half of its lithium. Its resources sector delivered A$254 billion ($167 billion) in sales in the past fiscal year.

In contrast to Tuesday’s announcement, reforms to Australia’s national environmental regulation have been delayed to next year.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia said it had not been consulted about the changes, adding that they posed further risks to the environment in the state.

The reform agenda, it said, “appears to be a Trojan Horse to enable the big end of town to wield even more influence. It’s business as usual on steroids.”

The Grattan Institute, a think tank, estimates the critical minerals industry could add more than $400 billion to Australia’s economy by 2050 with the right policy settings, a bigger contribution than the country’s no. 2 export coal.

($1 = 1.5195 Australian dollars)

(By Melanie Burton; Editing by Sonali Paul and Edwina Gibbs)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *