Proposed changes to the NSW Mining SEPP will mean the economic significance of the mining resource will be a principal consideration when granting new mining development approvals.

In the Winter issue of The Landscape, we told you about the recent Land and Environment Court of NSW decision of Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association Inc v Minster for Planning and Infrastructure & ors which overturned the Minister’s approval to extend an existing mining operation in the Hunter Valley due to the environmental and social impacts of the project outweighing the economic benefits of developing the mine. 

The State Government has now proposed changes to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 (Mining SEPP) in an attempt to prevent similar results in the future.

Proposed amendments to the Mining SEPP have been placed on a short period of public exhibition.  They are designed to promote the development of significant mineral resources in the State.  The amendments propose to achieve this through making the ‘significance of the resource’ the consent’s authority’s principal consideration when assessing a new mining development application. 

The proposed amendments also introduce non-discretionary development standards for mining projects, a similar concept to provisions in State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing for Seniors or People with a Disability) 2004 which are designed to streamline approval of projects which comply with pre-determined development standards.  If the proposed mine development satisfies one of the new standards, the consent authority must not refuse consent to the development on the specific grounds to which the standards relate.  These standards relate to noise, air quality, airblast overpressure, ground vibration and aquifer interference.  One further change is that the consent authority must consider any certification by the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage that measures to mitigate or offset the biodiversity impact of the proposed development will be adequate.

The government is currently seeking public feedback on the proposed amendments to the Mining SEPP.  Submissions on the amendments can be made until Monday 12 August 2013.