Australian environmental approvals – a breakthrough approach

first_imgThe Minerals Council of Australia has unveiled practical new measures to reduce red tape and speed up project approvals without diminishing environmental protection. The MCA says the “proposal complements the Federal and State Governments’ ‘One-stop-shop’ approach and is specifically designed to improve industry and community confidence in the project approval process – confidence which is being undermined by the excessive amount of time, effort and money wasted meeting overlapping, duplicating regulations which add little if any value to environmental protection. The key features of the MCA’s proposal are:1.      The development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) to provide an online, searchable public database of environmental features. This would enable any member of the community to enter the coordinates of their region and access to the most up to date, established, scientific knowledge of the region’s environmental assets including its ecological species, water resources, mineral deposits and land use potential.Resource companies will be able to identify where their exploration and development proposals intersect with features of national environmental significance and plan accordingly. This will increase transparency of the environmental risks that need to be managed and mitigate against interested parties – company, government or community groups – needing to repeat the same costly and time consuming analysis for each and every new project approval.  2.      The GIS information will then define the scope of a project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS). The community could be confident that all material environmental issues would be addressed. Companies would know that matters not identified through the science-based GIS process could not be later included. The EIS process would be shorter, less expensive, more accessible and focussed on those environmental issues that are material and specific to the subject project.   The integrity of the process would be greatly enhanced in protecting all parties from costly and unproductive vexatious allegations and lengthy public appeals.The measures prove that the mining industry is not seeking to duck or dodge scientific scrutiny – it seeks to avoid only unnecessary and duplicating red and green tape.These two measures are practical demonstrations of the Australian minerals industry’s commitment to a project approvals process that delivers real and tangible environmental stewardship from an efficient and effective project regulatory licence and an enduring social licence to operate in surrounding communities. The key ingredients of which are the practical concepts of sustainable development, sound science, transparency and scrutiny, procedural certainty, and meaningful community engagement.,The MCA has led an inclusive consultative process in developing these proposals and will continue to engage with all levels of government, conservation NGOs, community groups, indigenous and rural landholders, the scientific community and the minerals industry,Mitch Hooke, Chief Executive Officer, is attending the MCA’s Sustainable Development 2013 Conference at the Brisbane Sofitel. The MCA’s proposal was the focus of the session Approvals and Conditions – A New Model yesterday featuring the Hon Andrew Powell MP, Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection; Deb Kerr, Manager Natural Resource Management, National Farmers Federation; Gilly Llewellin, Conservation Director, World Wildlife Fund; and Gavin Price, Manager Environment and Sustainable Development, BHP Iron Ore.last_img

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