On 4 November 2013, State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) Amendment (Resource Significance) 2013 (Mining SEPP Amendment) came into force. The aim of the Mining SEPP Amendment is to promote the development of significant mineral resources and ensure that the economic benefits of developing such resources is a “principal” consideration in the decision making process.
Between 29 July and 12 August 2013, the draft Mining SEPP Amendment (Draft SEPP) was on public exhibition. Our earlier In Brief discussed the Draft SEPP in more detail.
Following the close of the public submission period for the Draft SEPP, a number of changes were incorporated into the Mining SEPP Amendment to more clearly identify the factors relevant to the assessment of mining proposals and the weight to be given to such factors, as well as the introduction of review requirements.
The key changes introduced by the Mining SEPP Amendment are as follows:
(a) the economic benefits of developing that resource, both to the State and the region, including:
(i) employment generation;
(ii) expenditure, including capital investment; and
(iii) the payment of royalties to the State; and
(b) any advice by the Director-General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services including in relation to:
(i) the size, quality and availability of that resource;
(ii) the proximity and access of the relevant land to existing or proposed infrastructure;
(iii) the relationship of that resource to any existing mine; and
(iv) whether other industries or projects are dependent on the development of that resource.
The Mining SEPP Amendment is likely to have profound implications for the assessment and determination of applications for the development of significant mineral resources. In particular, consent authorities are now required to consider the economic benefits of a mining proposal over and above other matters such as environmental, social and amenity impacts. These reforms are also likely to significantly water down the implications of the Land and Environment Court decision in Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association Inc v Minister for Planning and Infrastructure and Warkworth Mining Limited  NSWLEC 48, click here for more.
However, the effect of these changes may be short lived as the NSW Legislative Council, as part of its proposed amendments to the Planning Bill 2013 currently tabled in Parliament, has sought to repeal the Mining SEPP Amendment. As a consequence, there is a risk that the Mining SEPP Amendment may be repealed in 2014. In the interim, proponents of mining proposals will face an increased level of uncertainty and, possibly, scrutiny from communities and resident action groups.
The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.