Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps, said the new process had the potential to halve the time taken for companies to be granted exploration permits, while maintaining rigorous environmental, native title and land access assessments.
“We have listened to requests from the resources sector for faster, more efficient approval timeframes and we are delivering,” Mr Cripps said.
“Mining is one of the key pillars of the Queensland economy and streamlining this process will let resource companies get on with business.
“For example, the more streamlined process means exploration permits subject to native title can be decided in less than 12 months, while permits not subject to native title can be determined in six months or sooner.
“This is a significant reduction on the average 22 months it currently takes for an exploration permit application to be processed to the stage where it can be granted or rejected.”
Mr Cripps said the new approach was also good news for rural landholders in their negotiations with resource companies.
“It means mining companies no longer need to wait until an exploration permit is granted before engaging with landholders about their proposed exploration activities,” he said.
“Those discussions can now happen much earlier, giving rural producers more time to consider and negotiate land access and conduct and compensation agreements put to them by resource companies.”
Mr Cripps stressed that in line with the existing regulatory framework, no exploration activities could begin in an area prior to a permit being granted.
“Applications to explore will still be subject to the same stringent assessment process to ensure they meet strict environmental, technical and commercial viability, community interest, native title and land access requirements,” he said.
“A granted exploration permit is not a right to mine, and the Queensland Resources Council estimates that approximately only one in every 200 granted exploration permits ever goes on to become a mine.”
Under the new process:
· Companies will now be formally advised within 90 days of lodgement whether their proposed exploration works program for a project has been approved or rejected.
· For successful applications not subject to native title, once a work program has been approved and an environmental authority has been issued, a permit can be granted after annual rent has been paid.
· For applications subject to native title, it means companies can start required native title processes and engage landholders about conduct and compensation arrangements a lot sooner.
· These permit applications can then be finalised within 30 days of the native title process being concluded.