Industry now has the opportunity to let government know what it thinks about Queensland’s strategic cropping land laws. The government’s review of the laws is a welcome move, particularly if the outcome is lower time and cost impacts on resources companies.

Queensland's strategic cropping land laws (SCL Laws) are a key consideration for many companies proposing to develop a resources project in Queensland. 

The SCL Laws were introduced in January 2012 as the government’s response to balancing resource development with the need to protect cropping land.

Projects which involve open cut mining, coal seam gas operations and long-wall or underground mining proposed on strategic cropping land (SCL) are assessable under the legislation. 

Since their inception, the SCL Laws have been criticised for being developed too quickly and with insufficient public consultation. 

Resources companies now have the opportunity to respond to the Queensland Government’s discussion paper which seeks feedback and suggestions in relation to the SCL Laws.  The time and cost impacts of dealing with the SCL framework are significant for resources companies.  Resources companies have experienced project delays due to the time taken to obtain a protection decision or an SCL compliance certificate.  Concerns have also been raised in relation to the administrative burden associated with SCL assessments triggered by minor amendments to environmental authorities. 

According to the Queensland Resources Council in a submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into mineral and resource exploration, “many explorers have opted to quarantine any area of strategic cropping land from their tenure, rather than bear the expense and uncertainty of this Act". 

The Queensland Government has made some changes to the SCL framework as part of its commitment to reducing unnecessary regulation. 

From September 2012, only resource activities proposed to be conducted directly on SCL or potential SCL require assessment (whereas prior to September 2012 SCL assessment was required where the area of a resource authority contained any SCL or potential SCL). 

The Queensland Government has also simplified the SCL Standard Conditions Code with respect to resource activities that have a temporary impact on SCL and pose a low risk to SCL. 

Some of the issues raised for consideration in the Queensland Government’s SCL discussion paper include:

  • time delays associated with a validation assessment;
  • the lack of clarity and certainty in relation to the current definitions of temporary and permanent impacts on SCL, for example whether underground mining constitutes a temporary or permanent impact on SCL; and
  • the prescriptive nature of the SCL Standard Conditions Code. 

Responses to the discussion paper are due on 9 September 2013

Interested parties can complete an online survey or make a submission to the Queensland Government by email or post.