The mineral titles approvals process in Western Australia has
been the subject of criticism for a number of years. Since 2003,
the State Government has committed $37.4 million to improving and
streamlining this process. Despite this, in October 2008 the
Auditor General announced that even though agencies have
implemented the key initiatives, so far none of the intended
improvements have eventuated.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has recently said that
his priority will be to look at dramatically overhauling the
current "unwieldy" approvals process and providing
greater certainty and confidence in the mining and resources sector
in Western Australia.
Already the industry is seeing a number of governmental changes
being implemented. On 1 January 2009, the new Department of Mines
and Petroleum (DMP) came into existence, created
from a restructure of the previous Department of Industry and
Resources and the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.
One of DMP's major priorities for 2009 is to significantly
improve the approvals process. It will work with other government
agencies to improve its use of delegations and parallel processing
for environmental approvals, as well as working to streamline
matters relating to Aboriginal heritage and Native Title. DMP also
plans to ensure that elements of the approvals process that are
within its jurisdiction are acted on in a timely and efficient
As well as the new DMP, Mr Moore announced in November 2008 that
he had set up a 12-member industry working group to focus and
advise on ways to improve the State's exploration and
development approvals process. The group will advise the State
Government on how the approvals process can be streamlined. It is
hoped the group will provide a strategic review of Western
Australia's approvals processes, to make them "more
efficient and more welcoming" for exploration and development
The group will be chaired by Peter Jones, a former Resources
Minister, with former Mines Minister John Bowler as Deputy
Chairman. They will be joined by members of the mining and
resources industry including representatives from Apache Energy,
BHP Billiton and The Griffin Group.
The group's objectives are, among other things, to:
understand existing approvals processes (environmental, tenure,
planning, Native Title and Aboriginal heritage) and the timelines
associated with these processes;
understand the impediments, overlap and duplication that may
occur across State and Commonwealth agencies;
identify which impediments can be addressed through changes to
government policies and administrative processes and those which
will require legislative change;
develop a framework to ensure better co-ordination across
agencies, including provisions to ensure decision-making within
suggest mechanisms for the review of decisions; and
provide a schedule for implementation of the necessary
The Minister has said that he expects to receive a final report
by the end of April 2009. In a difficult economic climate, it is
hoped that this industry working group, as well as the new DMP,
will help to achieve administrative streamlining to encourage
investment, while at the same time maintaining adequate regulatory
standards in all areas.
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It is a common misconception that the grant of mining tenure, whether it be an Exploration Permit, Mineral Development Licence or Mining Lease, will entitle the holder to access all land within it in order to explore or mine.
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