The Western Australian Government’s WA Recovery Plan aims to help drive economic and social recovery across the State. The $5.5 billion investment will create thousands of local jobs in important sectors such as mining, construction, renewable energy, manufacturing, education and training, agriculture, tourism and hospitality and conservation.
The mining sector, which has played an integral part in keeping WA in a strong economic position, will benefit from the Government investing in exploration activities to complement existing operations in regional areas.
The WA Government will support mining exploration by building a pipeline of new activity to complement existing operations. Initiatives will include building on the industry’s understanding of the State’s geoscience, encouraging exploration activities and ultimately kick-starting new projects across Western Australia.
Amendments to mining regulations are expected to reduce assessment timeframes for exploration applications, thereby fast-tracking new opportunities. This will be alongside changes to streamline planning and environmental protection requirements.
A single approval instrument will be introduced to approve mining activities across multiple tenements. A new process for low impact exploration and prospecting activities will allow for automated approvals, subject to acceptance of standardised conditions.
In response to industry feedback, duplication in environment reporting will be removed for mining projects, with one annual environment report required instead of the current requirement of up to three reports under three separate Acts.
Reporting frequency will be also reduced to biennial after three years for projects with satisfactory reporting. Reports will be published online to improve transparency and increase public confidence.
Key approvals agencies will roll into an online ‘one-stop shop’ for approvals through the wa.gov.au website from January 1, 2021 with more to follow from March 1, 2021.
Changes to regulations will also allow mining tenement holders to apply for expenditure exemptions if they are able to demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic affected their financial capacity to meet expenditure conditions of their leases.
An allocation of $7 million will expand the Joe Lord Core Library’s capacity. This facility in Kalgoorlie stores core samples that contain valuable geoscientific information for exploration companies and others seeking new mineral discoveries.
The plan will also allow for investment in major infrastructure. $330 million will be invested in capital works in defence, port and harbour infrastructure, and serviced land to help establish new business and research facilities. Regional ports throughout WA will benefit from improvements worth $158.8 million, including:
- $20 million for retaining and sea walls in Port Hedland’s Inner Harbour
- $51.2 million for retaining and sheet pile walls in the Pilbara’s Nelson Point Tug Haven
- $7.6 million to support the development of an LNG bunkering hub in the Pilbara, already announced
- $10.2 million toward priority works at Esperance Port to increase import and export capacity
Additionally, $3.8 million is being committed to prepare a feasibility study for upgrades and new infrastructure at the Port of Bunbury and Kwinana Bulk Terminal to support the possible reopening of the Greenbushes rail line.
About $100 million of funding will go towards further industry development initiatives, including:
- $20 million towards a Robotics and Automation physical testing facility in Neerabup
- $7.5 million to provide serviced land for businesses supporting major projects in the Kemerton Strategic Industrial Area (which hosts strategic and downstream processing industries).
Furthermore, a $66.3 million renewable energy technology package will create jobs, reduce costs and improve WA’s renewable energy footprint.
The focus will be on expanding Western Australia’s footprint in the renewable hydrogen industry and generating opportunities to introduce new manufacturing capability in renewable technologies.
The Government will install more renewable energy and batteries on its networks and on State-owned assets, particularly for regional and remote communities, to improve reliability and help lower energy costs for residents and businesses. Innovation in the use of renewables will be through micro-grids, stand-alone power systems, virtual power plants and battery storage technology.
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the Queensland Government should mirror key plans of the WA Government’s recovery plan for its own economic revival.
Mr Macfarlane said like the industry in WA, the Queensland resources sector needs the State Government to help kick-start new projects with support for exploration, reduced assessment timeframes and exemption for affected mining tenement holders.
In response to QRC’s 40-point Resource Industry Recovery Agenda, the Queensland Government has increased funding for the Collaborative Exploration Initiative by $10 million.
“For the resources sector to do more, we need the Queensland Government to do more,” Mr Macfarlane said.