Queensland Government releases draft Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan

The Industry’s Vision for the Next 30 Years

Recently, the State Government released the draft Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan (Draft QRIDP). The Draft QRIDP provides the industry’s vision for the next 30 years and outlines global challenges facing the resources industry, opportunities for growth and diversification, the industry’s role in facilitating the recovery from COVID-19 and government and industry collaboration efforts aimed at achieving the vision. The vision is for ‘a resilient, responsible and sustainable Queensland resources industry that grows as it transforms’.

The Draft QRIDP highlights the inevitability of the development and evolution of Queensland’s resources sector. To facilitate the change, the Draft QRIDP contemplates that Government and industry will need to work together in several important ways to promote the following key focus areas:

  1. Grow and diversify the industryThe vision is to create a new sector of industrialisation based on the mining, processing and manufacturing of new economy minerals (also known as critical minerals). New economy minerals have diverse uses such as batteries, smart phones, wind turbines, electric vehicles, defence and medical technology. They include elements such as copper, vanadium, aluminum, cobalt, graphite, tungsten, zinc and nickel. With exploration being considered critical, the key action items for this focus area include:
    1. delivery of Queensland’s Collaborative Exploration Initiative;
    2. piloting the re-commercialisation of an abandoned mine with the learnings from this project facilitating and assisting future releases;
    3. developing a Queensland Battery Industry Strategy;
    4. facilitating and investigating common user infrastructure;
    5. completing the Bowen Basin pipeline concept study to investigate potential pathways and optimisation schemes;
    6. reviewing the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety Act) 2004 (Qld) to include hydrogen and other clean energy resources within its ambit; and
    7. investigating carbon capture, use and storage technologies and opportunities.
  2. Strengthen the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials and protect the environment. The vision is for the resources industry to be known as a global leader in ESG: promoting partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and being leaders in technology disassembly and recycling. With a focus beyond the regulatory framework, companies are moving to understand and adapt to market trends. The Government will assist the industry to meet ESG standards through protection by legislation. Industry will maintain its social licence and continually support the engagement of ESG responsibilities and practices. The key action items include:
    1. continual implementation of the financial assurance and mine rehabilitation reforms;
    2. requiring industry to develop decarbonisation operation plans including considering developing an operational policy requiring environmental authority applicants to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions and creating a reporting and monitoring framework to illustrate this progress;
    3. investigating the establishment of an independent Environmental Protection Agency; and
    4. continuing the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre Basin consultation to promote balance between environmental and economic considerations for the area.
  3. Foster coexistence and sustainable communities. It is expected that the Queensland Government will assess the GasFields Commission’s review of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (Qld) and will consider the recommendations. It is stated in the Draft QRIDP that the resources industry should focus on leaving a positive legacy in communities that extends beyond the operational life of projects. The principles for establishing these relationships include: understanding; early engagement; relevant information and science; communication; negotiation and decision-making, compassion; consistency; competency; transparency; community engagement; community mindedness; and a positive legacy. The key action items include:
    1. reviewing land access and coexistence institutions;
    2. considering the emerging coexistence issues in updated regional plans;
    3. implementing the findings of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017 (Qld) (SSRC Act) review; and
    4. delivering the Resources Communities Infrastructure Fund.
  4. Ensure strong and genuine First Nations partnerships. The vision is to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as true partners in any resource project undertaken on Country. To achieve this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships must be seen as critical for any future development. This can be ensured by setting participation and employment targets; developing pathways to employment for school students; providing a culturally safe workplace; funding scholarships; implementing training and apprenticeship programs; employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across all levels; and providing pathways for existing workers to upskill. The key action items include:
    1. continuing the Local Thriving Communities reform;
    2. reviewing the Cultural Heritage Acts to strengthen and improve their enforcement and scope;
    3. developing reconciliation action plans; and
    4. assisting in Closing the Gap through economic development opportunities.
  5. Build a safe and resilient future workforce. It is expected that the health and safety of workers will be addressed and promoted in all aspects of the industry. More Queenslanders will be employed and will be provided a high-wage, highly skilled, safe and fulfilling career. With a move to automation, the workforce must be encouraged to continuously learn, upskill and reskill. The industry must guide this change.
  6. Improve regulatory efficiency. The aim is to achieve risk-based, efficient, effective and transparent regulation that protects the public interest. The Queensland Government will ensure it actively manages tenures and is a modern regulator who ensures companies optimise their development and meet their work programs and development plan obligations. The Government aims to process applications efficiently and with the required transparency to promote certainty. The Government will ensure that any regulatory change expected to have a material impact will undergo a 12-week consultation process. Industry is expected to work alongside government to adequately understand the regulatory framework to assist and ensure industry compliance. Industry will actively develop and comply with work programs and development plans to optimize state resources. The key action items include:
    1. improve the resource project assessment processes through the implementation of: more effective pre-Lodgement meetings; case management; data sharing and repository centers; guidance; applicant’s toolkits; and publicly available information;
    2. develop a data resources development plan;
    3. improve the land release process;
    4. implement reforms for objections, review and notification processes for project approvals;
    5. implement reforms for small-scale mining. The Government will announce its decision about progressing this reform in the release of the final plan. Small-scall miners will still have the ability to gain tenure through a mining lease and recreational miners will be able to access designated fossicking areas in the state;
    6. implement reforms for the use of steel casing to remove the prohibition on the use of steel casing in horizontal coal seam gas wells where there is no overlapping tenure;
    7. develop a fit-for-purpose framework for extractive industry assessment which balances the impacts of extractive industries with the requirement for construction materials; and
    8. improve cost recovery for government services provided to industry to ensure tenures are actively developed such that the fees and charges paid by industry better correlate to the costs of the services being provided.

You can view the full Draft QRIDP or a summary here. Feedback from targeted stakeholders is welcomed until February 2022. It is expected that the final plan will be released mid-2022. If you would like any further information or assistance with your review of the Draft QRIDP, please do not hesitate to contact our Energy & Resources Team.

This article may provide CPD/CLE/CIP points through your relevant industry organisation.

The material contained in this publication is in the nature of general comment only, and neither purports nor is intended to be advice on any particular matter. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this publication without considering, and if necessary, taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

Hannah Riggs

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