Both the Queensland and New South Wales governments have recently made announcements about reducing approval time frames and cutting red tape for exploration and mining. 

Queensland – Faster approval process for exploration permits

The Queensland Government has announced a new approval process for exploration permit (EP) applications which aims to reduce the time it takes for an EP to be granted.

The key changes that have been announced by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) are:

  • Applicants will be formally advised within 90 days of lodgement whether their proposed exploration works program has been approved or rejected. This gives explorers the opportunity to begin consultation about their exploration program with landholders and local governments, without waiting for the EP to be granted.
  • Rent and financial assurance will be requested with the work program approval notice. Rent and financial assurance are due either within 20 business days or by the end of the native title notification period, whichever is the later.
  • Once all requirements have been finalised (payment of rent and financial assurance, issue of an environmental authority, and, if applicable, the native title process), DNRM will aim to grant the EP within 30 days.

Faster approval decisions

After these changes are in place an application for an EP subject to native title can be determined in less than 12 months.

An application for an EP not subject to native title can be determined in six months or less.

Currently it takes an average of 22 months for an EP application to be processed to the stage where it can be granted or rejected.

DNRM have produced a flow chart explaining the new changes here.

NSW – Amendments to mining lease conditions and Mining Act processing times

Amendments to mining lease conditions

Last week the NSW Government announced amendments to the conditions placed on mining leases, aimed at removing duplication of certain conditions and improving regulatory outcomes.

These changes will reduce the number of conditions on mining leases as follows:

  • For future standard coal mining leases – conditions reduced from 24 to nine. 
  • For other future mining leases – conditions reduced from 23 to eight.

Reducing Mining Act processing times

The NSW Trade & Investment Division of Resources and Energy (DRE) has recently introduced new time frames for processing applications made under the Mining Act 1992 (NSW). These apply to applications for exploration licences, assessment leases and mining leases.

For applications lodged from 1 July 2013, the following target time frames apply:

  • For all mineral applications and renewals: 45 business days (reduced from 80 business days)
  • For all coal applications: 95 business days (reduced from 150 business days) 
  • For all coal renewals: 55 business days (reduced from 100 business days)

Exceptions apply to circumstances beyond DRE’s control, where DRE can “stop the clock” on the processing time frames. These include:

  • EPBC Act referral; 
  • native title right to negotiate process; 
  • development consent that is required prior to Mining Act 1992 approval; 
  • compliance issues of direct relevance to the application or mineral title; 
  • any significant unresolved issue with a third party of direct relevance to the application or mineral title; and
  • for mining leases only: a significant improvement determination, an agricultural land determination and an outstanding survey.

The clock will restart when the relevant exception has been addressed. DRE will endeavour to minimise the use of stopping the clock and where practical, will continue to process applications while the clock is stopped.

More information about DRE’s service delivery standards is available here.