May 25, 2020

Call for faster approvals to support economic recovery

Call for faster approvals to support economic recovery

Faster project approvals and lower taxes are among the reform priorities the mining industry is pushing to help underpin Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

The Minerals Council of Australia has put forward a range of policy and regulatory options to the Federal Government which it says would help the sector maximise its contribution to Australia’s economic recovery.

“Our world-leading minerals companies are hampered by regulatory duplication and overlap, while projects take too long to be approved – denying regional communities jobs and investment,” MCA chief executive officer Tania Constable said.

“Expediting environmental assessments and approvals, reforming greenfields agreements and expanding incentives for exploration will also help realise and refresh the potential pipeline of new and expanding mining projects.

“A potential mining investment pipeline of up to $100 billion of coal, iron ore, base metal, critical mineral and gold projects as well as tens of billions of spending to sustain the Australian mining industry cannot be taken for granted.”

The Queensland Resources Council has also listed a streamlined approval process for new projects as a key area where it is working with government for improvement.

“Like any new infrastructure, mines need to pass the full environmental and economic assessments,” QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

“But Queensland cannot afford these projects to languish in the ‘to be determined’ pile.

“The Federal Government approval of the Olive Downs coal mine in central Queensland last week is welcomed.  It already had its Queensland Government approvals.  As much as we can, we need to see these separate approval processes come together.”

Another priority was more land releases for exploration and incentives for those companies, particularly the juniors, who would be the key to the new discoveries, he said.

Tax burden must be reined in

Ms Constable said Australia’s company tax rate of 30 per cent was too high and not internationally competitive.

“Future mining investment should not be put at risk by any move to increase the already high burden on the sector. In particular, the fuel tax credit scheme, which operates to avoid taxing a vital business input, should remain in its current form,” Ms Constable said.

“Skills and training needs will require a particular focus, including retraining and reskilling entrants from other industries affected by COVID-19.

MCA chief executive officer Tania Constable.

“The minerals industry stands ready to accelerate 1000 new apprenticeships through the Mining Skills Organisation Pilot.”

She said the government also had an opportunity to maximise gains from partnerships with Indigenous Australians by extending and accelerating the Prescribed Bodies Corporate capacity-building program to ensure Traditional Owners could realise the full economic development opportunities arising from native title.

Queensland project wish list

The projects the QRC would like to see approved quickly to generate jobs include:

New Acland Stage 3 – 487 new jobs, $900 million investment

South32’s Eagle Downs – 500 jobs

Winchester South – 500 jobs in construction, 450 jobs in operation, $1 billion investment

Olive Downs – 500 jobs in construction, 1000-plus jobs in operation, $1 billion

Saint Elmo vanadium project – 200 jobs during construction, 150 in operation, $470 million

Major job-generating projects in the pipeline in the Galilee Basin include the Galilee Coal and Rail Project (2,325 jobs, $6.4 billion), Alpha Coal project (990 jobs $10.8 billion) and South Galilee Coal Project (1,288 jobs, $4.2 billion).