Australia's miners have welcomed the federal government's commitment to a 12-month review aimed at streamlining the resources sector's regulation which they say is "suffocating" them, amid calls for industry to "push back."
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the review on Aug. 5, warning that the sector's success cannot be taken for granted as getting new projects off the ground has become "harder than ever," though resources exports hit a record A$278 billion in fiscal 2019.
The Minerals Council of Australia said in an Aug. 6 statement that those record exports enabled Australia's resources sector to account for 58% of the country's total export revenue that financial year.
Resources minister Matt Canavan said Aug. 5 that improving the efficiency of environmental approvals in particular would reduce the regulatory burden, though the aim is still for projects to be "transparently and efficiently assessed while upholding robust environmental standards."
Westgold Resources Managing Director Peter Cook addresses
Source: Diggers & Dealers.
Westgold Resources Ltd. Managing Director Peter Cook told delegates Aug. 5 that a balance between green and red tape is needed, as it is "not currently tipped in our favor," given the costs of compliance are rising "exponentially."
He cited a 2014 Deloitte report that said regulations were costing miners A$96 billion, then a 2016 Institute of Public Affairs report that put that figure at A$176 billion, which represented 11% of Australia's gross domestic product.
"Our prosperity and entrepreneurship is being smothered by regulation, and it's time to push back," Cook said, while also welcoming the Productivity Commission review.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO Warren Pearce also said in a same-day statement that increasing costs and uncertainty of regulatory time frames makes attracting scarce investment capital "increasingly difficult."
He said the review needs to prune regulation and cut unnecessary and duplicative processes and costs, while maintaining effective oversight and risk-based regulation, and be done in close collaboration with the approvals reform processes already under way in most Australian jurisdictions.
In giving his keynote address to the conference on Aug. 5, former Australian prime minister John Howard agreed that Australia's mining sector has been "under attack."
Howard, Australia's second-longest serving prime minister from 1996 to 2007, said he had been "perplexed" by such attacks which have taken the form of protests and green tape delays to Adani Enterprises Ltd.'s Carmichael coal mine.
He said Australia's resources sector pulled the country through the global financial crisis, and "we should not allow it to be demonized," nor be "apologetic" about it.
As an example, Howard said the Labor party lost the federal election in May as it had listened to climate change advocates in Melbourne and Sydney while ignoring the views of people in central and north Queensland, who were more concerned about employment and economic security.