23/04/2008 - 22:00

Applications delays hit miners

23/04/2008 - 22:00

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A clampdown in the approvals process of exploration applications is potentially causing costly delays for the state’s resource companies.

Applications delays hit miners

A clampdown in the approvals process of exploration applications is potentially causing costly delays for the state’s resource companies.

The 82 per cent failure rate from last year’s state-wide inspection of exploration sites prompted the Department of Industry and Resources (DoIR) to tighten its approvals process for Program of Work applications.

The Program of Work application process follows the mining tenement application, where the state government has committed $3.5 million to reduce the backlog of submissions, which peaked at 18,700 last year, to 5,000 by 2010.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies’ policy and public affairs manager, Ian Loftus, said the high failure rate from last year forced a minor restructure in DoIR.

“DoIR have slightly refocused their efforts…. they’re putting a little bit more effort into compliance rather than the processing of paperwork, so that has had a little bit of an impact,” Mr Loftus said.

Adding to the delays is the significant increase in applications received this year at DoIR’s Kalgoorlie and Perth offices.

DoIR director environment division Graham Cobby said the department had employed three additional staff to help process the applications - which has a target of 30 working days - but there were other factors contributing to the delay.

“More complex applications, or proposed activities in environmentally sensitive areas, require advice from other agencies as part of the assessment process and take longer to approve,” Mr Cobby said.

“[Additionally] many of the industry submissions are of poor quality, some have vital information lacking.”

The tougher screening process of applications was also diverting DoIR staff to more frequent field inspections.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy director David Parker said the backlog was symptomatic of a pipeline of resource projects now worth more than $100 billion.

“This is one of the unintended consequences of a very extensive project pipeline,” Mr Parker said. 

“But it highlights the need to have a good look at the approvals system from the point of view of meeting the contemporary needs of a very exciting resource based economy.”

Mr Loftus said that while DoIR was working through the applications, the delay could affect smaller resource companies.

“It’s the smaller companies, which may have $5 million in the bank, that the delay of a month can have a very significant impact,” Mr Loftus said.

Drilling companies were also feeling the effects of the backlog.

“We’re caught out quite often; we’re caught out with projects at the moment up in the Pilbara which we can’t do anything for until we get the green light from the government,” Hagstrom Drilling Pty Ltd managing director Paul Musca said.

Another drilling contractor, who did not want to be named, said the situation had been steadily worsening over the past 12 months, however ,in the past six months it had been critical.

While the drilling contractors were sympathetic to resource delays, several companies said the extended time taken to process applications in sensitive areas should be factored into the exploration schedule.

One company said its Program of Work application took up to three months to process due to environmentally sensitive areas within its tenements.

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