New approach

Community concerns over the exploration and development of Latrobe Valley’s brown coal resources was recognised by a cross-party parliamentary inquiry this week.

However the Greenfields Mineral Exploration and Project Development in Victoria report, which was delivered to government in parliament on Tuesday, has promoted the need for a more streamlined approach to access the resource.

In delivering his report, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee chair Neal Burgess echoed long-held concerns of emerging coal technology developers, who have argued current regulatory processes were stifling access to the resource.

While the report received 60 submissions covering a range of concerns from a wide selection of stakeholders, including mining companies, local governments and environmental groups, the committee’s media release on Tuesday focused on the inquiry’s role in ensuring the state could capitalise on the economic benefits of brown coal utilisation. “The Inquiry examined why Victoria has fallen behind other Australian and overseas jurisdictions in attracting investment to explore and develop its mineral resources,” the release said.

The report delivered 25 recommendations to the government, including a review of exploration licence application notification procedures and developing a strategic land use policy framework to balance agriculture and mining.

While environmental groups welcomed the recommendations addressing land use and community consultation, they expressed concern about the overall “pro-development” nature of the report.

“The flavour of this report is that mining is valued more than other industries, communities or the environment,” Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeman said. “The Baillieu Government’s planned coal allocation in the Latrobe Valley will highlight and escalate this conflict between the public interest and mining interests.” A government spokesperson welcomed the report, and said it would respond to the recommendations within the prescribed six-month timeframe.