Mining approvals set for 12-month review

Matt Coughlan
A Productivity Commission review will consider streamlining mining approvals

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has declared mining projects should not face Adani-style delays after announcing a review of environmental approvals.

The Morrison government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine best-practice examples for streamlining resources regulation during a one-year review.

Major delays to projects like the Adani's Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, which took nine years to get final approval, will be in the study's crosshairs.

Senator Canavan said activists had hijacked approval processes to conduct "lawfare" with the objective of stopping jobs, rather than protecting the environment.

"We can't let something like Adani happen again," he told a mining conference in the NSW Hunter Valley on Monday.

"No investor should be made to wait 10 years to get a yes or no answer."

He said timely resource development was important for job creation and wider industries which relied on the products.

"The development of our resources are too important to allow fringe activists to hijack the processes for their own narrow ends," the minister said.

The Productivity Commission review will look at ways to reduce unnecessary costs for business while maintaining sound oversight.

Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter said Australia's approvals system already favoured mining companies over communities.

"Major coal mining projects like Adani suck up precious groundwater resources in a country baked dry by climate change. This is sheer insanity, as coal is the number one driver of climate change," he said.

"We are in the thick of the climate emergency, and this is a time that the federal government should be strengthening environmental protections, rather than tearing them down."

The resources industry has backed the study, with Minerals Council of Australia chief Tania Constable saying a more efficient process was needed to reduce duplication.

"Our nation also needs to stay ahead of fierce competition so Australian states win back their place in the top 10 mining jurisdictions across the globe," she said.

She wants the review to also consider the performance of Australia's competitors, not just comparable economies, to shine a light on state governments' declining competitiveness.

The NSW Minerals Council, who hosted the event at which Senator Canavan spoke, said shorter approval time frames were needed.

The Productivity Commission study will also examine community engagement practices, including land access.

A statutory review of the national environmental protection law is also due to begin in October.