2nd Review of Getting the Groundwork Right

By on October 16, 2019

ANNA CRONIN Commissioner for Better Regulation and Red Tape Commissioner’s second six-monthly review to implement the Getting the Groundwork Right report is available from www.earthresources.vic.gov.au

The second review was commissioned by the Minister for Resources The Hon Jaclyn Symes MP and was released in early September 2019. The 1st Review was completed in August 2018.

The approvals backlog has been significantly reduced – 100 per cent of work plans for new quarries and mines and variations were within statutory timeframes (as at 31 March 2019). This is a ‘work in progress’ and the critical importance of making sure that the approvals system is working effectively and efficiently cannot be overstated.

Comments
Data needs to be released on:
• The proportion of applications returned to the proponent for further information within the 30 day statutory timeframe;
• The number of approved extractive industry work plans;
• The number of approved work authorities;
• The date of beginning of operations; and
• The additional tonnages of construction materials per annum.
• This will enable a wholistic assessment of ERR’s performance.
• There is too much reliance on one individual staff member.

New guidelines for the preparation of work plans and variations for the exploration, mining and extractives sectors were released – the guidelines provide clearer information to industry on how to prepare work plans and variations and set out the new notification pathway. These guidelines provide clarity on the regulator’s expectations and help achieve consistency and transparency in the assessment and approval of work plans.

Comments
A proportionate guideline is urgently needed for simple extractive industry sites (above 5 Ha).

There is little difference between the exploration, mining and extractives sector guidelines with the original intent to be proportionate to the level of risk, e.g.

The risk matrix applies to coal mines/mines which have a higher and different risk profile to the extractive industries. This impacts the ability for extractive industry to access the notification pathway.

A new notification approvals pathway was introduced –
a quicker and cheaper approvals pathway has been introduced to reduce assessment times for work plan changes for existing quarries and mines.
• Overall, industry has welcomed this change and has reported improvements in approvals times as a result.
• PwC’s preliminary evaluation of the notification pathway and found it is quicker and cheaper for industry. It observed that, based on initial feedback provided by industry, there appear to be substantial time/cost savings associated with the new notification pathway. Twenty notifications for works changes (five mines and 15 quarries) have been accepted by ERR as of 29 May 2019.

Comments
The notification pathway is a logical and welcome change. However, as previously indicated there are difficulties with accessing the pathway due to the risk matrix, for example, Aboriginal Heritage.

Held industry sessions on the new work plan guidelines and notification pathway – around 200 people attended industry sessions on the new guidelines. The sessions were well received by industry.

Comments
This was a good opportunity for feedback.

Legislative change agenda
• In line with my Report’s recommendations about the need for legislative change in the longer-term, the Earth Resources Policy & Legislation team has started scoping legislative changes to the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.
• An initial legislative reform priority is to explore the alignment between land use planning legislation and the MRSD Act to reduce the time it takes for regulatory approvals to open a new mine or quarry.
• Progressive implementation of new regulations is creating a complex operating environment for ERR, which has a flow-on effect to SoPs, guidelines and the website.

Comments
The draft MRSD (Extractive Industry) Regulations have been released for consultation. Hopefully, they are not a repeat of the recently released MRSD (Minerals) Regulations and recognise the lower and different risk profile of the extractive industry especially in the area of rehabilitation.

Industry familiarisation
• My report highlighted the importance of ERR staff being familiar with industry. My consultations with industry indicate that further work is required as a priority to increase industry knowledge within ERR.
• It is pleasing to note that ERR has now committed to a program of quarterly site visits so that all staff visit a mine and quarry annually. Priority should be given to new starters and those who have not yet been onsite. ERR will also invite staff from other relevant agencies (such as DELWP) to these visits to increase industry exposure across government. Other steps to address this should include practical training about mining and quarrying operations to increase industry familiarisation.

Comments
The lack of industry familiarisation in ERR leads to risk adverse decision making. A solution to this critical issue is to employ staff with experience and qualifications in the extractive industry.

My report recommended an investment support role for Invest Assist. Given the critical importance of ensuring mining and quarrying projects move smoothly through the approvals process, Invest Assist should have a coordinating role for significant resource projects, to facilitate approvals across the multiple regulators.

Comments
Hopefully, “significant resource projects” applies across the extractive industry and not just multi-national companies.

1.Implementing the SoPs.
2.Reviewing the notification process to determine whether:
a. it is necessary for applicants to seek written advice from local government planning departments prior to submitting a notification application
b. it can be made automatic.
3.Liaising with DELWP at senior levels to identify what can be done to progress the delivery of the commitments in the Joint Ministerial Statement.
4.Delivering on industry familiarisation activities.

Comments
Note: 68 Standard Operating Procedures have been developed with only 9 implemented. Seeking advice from local government was written into ERR’s 2nd Statement of Operating Change but not into the Guidelines for Work Plans.

Key priorities in the Review

In summary, in order for the extractive industry to continue and increase investing capital sound data is required, an understanding of:

  1. The percentage of above Class 3 or A grade resource that is available or being approved;
  2. The number of Greenfield sites approved over the last 15 years including the percentage of A Grade resource.
  3. The drop off or not of private investment in Victoria into Greenfield sites over the last 15 years and whether additional regulatory burden over that time has impacted private investment. This should also be conducted for Brownfield site variations.
  4. The Work Authority holder providing returns enabling a mass balance to be conducted for the last 15 years.

The benefit of the above information is that it will provide an indication if capital is moving out of or into the extractive industry sector.

About Gavin Moreira

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