Western Australia’s peak environment group today expressed concern at a proposal from the WA Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), who have called for a review of environmental laws, reduced appeal rights, and faster approvals for mining proposals.
CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said, “Strong protection for the environment, and the right for communities to have a say in development approvals should not be negotiable in Western Australia.
“It is concerning to see AMEC calling for a review of the state’s environmental legislation to allow faster development approvals at a time when we should instead be strengthening the failing environmental controls that currently apply to the mining industry.
“In particular, AMEC’s plan to further reduce community input into environmental approvals by removing appeal rights against mining projects is totally unacceptable. This proposal is simply a disguised attempt by some parts of the mining industry to avoid public scrutiny of their plans and operations.
“Conservation groups are more than happy to work with industry and government on improving the appeals process to deliver greater certainty for industry while enhancing community participation and environmental outcomes. One option to achieve this would be to replace the existing politically driven Ministerial appeals process with a merits-based judicial review.
“AMEC’s plan to cut communities out of important decisions on environmental approvals and regulations for mining would be a major step backwards in terms of reduced transparency and accountability. This proposal will not be accepted by the WA community, and it is not even supported by the more responsible mining companies in WA.
“By calling for environmental appeal rights to be removed, AMEC is effectively backing the small fraction of mining projects that are opposed or raise concerns in the community. We call on AMEC to instead support those mining companies who are doing the right thing, not those who are trying to get away with dodgy mining projects that will damage the environment.
“A growing pile of independent reports, including a review by the WA Auditor General have found that environmental regulations in the mining industry need to be strengthened urgently, as they are failing on a number of important fronts.
“The Barnett Government has responded to this by announcing a review of environmental mining regulations; however AMEC’s position appears to be directly at odds with the direction of these reforms.
“Generally, community members only exercise their rights to appeal environmental approvals where the projects have unacceptable environmental impacts, or where the regulatory system has proved inadequate.
“The best way to reduce delays that AMEC complain about is to ensure good projects and strong regulations are applied in the first place, not to further lower the standards by cutting communities out of the process.
For further comment:
Piers Verstegen – 0411 557 892
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