OPINION: Mining concerned EPA powers will further delay projects
The Australian mining industry is concerned that the Government’s proposal to extend the powers of a national Environmental Protection Agency to include approvals will lead to a further slowing of investment in projects and new biodiversity conservation initiatives at a critical time for the Australian economy and environment.
More than ever Australia needs to attract investment in minerals development which supports local jobs and businesses and national objectives including transformation to net zero emissions and minerals security.
Less complex, efficient and timely approval processes for industry will be key to providing the certainty to invest and creating a framework for supporting biodiversity conservation.
Instead, the federal government has gone beyond its election commitments by proposing to outsource critical decision making on environmental approvals to an unelected, unaccountable approvals body.
This significant policy departure will reduce ministerial accountability and increases uncertainty for industry.
Environmental approvals require assessing environmental, social and economic and national interest matters for which a Minister should be accountable.
The Australian minerals industry is committed to the preservation of Australia’s unique environment.
The MCA supported many reforms laid out before the election to improve outcomes for both the environment and business that supported sustainable development.
The unexpected shift threatens to overshadow other welcome changes in the Commonwealth’s response to the review by Professor Graeme Samuel AC into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The MCA supports reforms to streamline regulation, enabled through regional planning and the accreditation of state and territory assessments and decision-making.
Providing conservation payments in environmental offsets, outcomes-based approval requirements and improved environmental data are all also welcome as are promise to streamline nuclear action approvals.
The details of proposed changes will need to be carefully developed in consultation with stakeholders to avoid inadvertent impacts. Business was already concerned about surprise changes workplace relations changes and speculation about increased taxation since the election, and further unexpected restraints on investment will be counterproductive.
The minerals industry is committed to working constructively in this process to ensure changes are practical and deliver for both the environment and business.
CEO, Minerals Council of Australia