Cabinet approves single-touch approvals for major projects
Mining News Pro - The National Cabinet on Friday agreed to move to single-touch environmental approvals underpinned by national environmental standards for Commonwealth environmental matters.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was also hoping to cut excessive waiting time for project approvals, with the Commonwealth approvals time for major projects targeted to be cut by some 50% from an average three-and-a-half years to just 21 months.

For major projects which are already at an advanced stage of assessment, governments would seek to progress them through the process as fast as possible and within statutory timeframes, he said.

“Joint assessment teams will work on accelerating these projects, which are worth more than A$72-billion in public and private investment and will support over 66 000 direct and indirect jobs.”

Morrison noted that some states would be able to transition to this system faster than others, but added that the Commonwealth would move immediately to enter into bilateral approval agreements and interim standards with the states that are able to progress now.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) of Western Australia has welcomed the decision, saying it would boost the efforts by the Western Australian resources sector to help repair the economy.

CME director of policy and advocacy Rob Carruthers said Western Australia will lead all states and territories in assuming responsibility for a single touch approvals process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, which will significantly streamline duplicative approval processes.

“The Treasurer and Finance Minister yesterday clearly reinforced the importance of Western Australia’s resources sector in underpinning the strength of the nation’s economy through the Covid-19 crisis, with the sector’s strong export volumes providing much needed income for the nation,” he said.

“For the past few months, the state and Commonwealth governments have supported the resources sector’s efforts to keep safely operating during Covid-19, which has provided a crucial financial buffer for the nation and saved Australia from a total economic fall.

“We welcome today’s commitment for ‘single touch’ environmental approvals, which will help bring forward capital investment and new jobs from the estimated A$91-billion of prospective mining and oil and gas projects in Western Australia.

“Western Australia is ideally placed to lead adoption of ‘single touch’ approvals announced by the Prime Minister today. CME applauds the cooperation in this time of crisis between the Morrison and Mark McGowan governments to facilitate this long-held aspiration.”

Carruthers said while a high standard of approvals was essential for ensuring robust environmental outcomes, the current inefficient approval processes that companies had to navigate was holding the sector back rather than allowing it to grow and remain internationally competitive.

“Successive government-led reviews have admitted the resources sector was being held back by complex layers of state and federal regulations, making it harder than ever to get new resources projects off the ground.

“Last month, it was revealed that delays to approvals for projects under the Commonwealth EPBC Act cost industry A$300-million in 2019.

“This new system of streamlined approvals will assist the sector’s efforts to facilitate job creation and aid the future expansion of the mining and oil and gas industries.

“Our focus coming out of Covid-19 is to continue to support safe operations, create jobs and invest in the community.”