THE Newman Government continues to introduce reforms and incentives designed to inject new life into Queensland’s struggling mineral exploration sector, which plummeted 31 per cent for the 2012-2013 financial year.

The Queensland Exploration Council (QEC) scorecard, released late October, reported that about one third had been wiped off the market capitalisation of Queensland-based junior miners in the past 12 months, and 81 per cent across the past two years.

The QEC’s explorer sentiment survey also indicated that Queensland had a negative rating compared with other states, on key factors such as government/departmental assistance, exploration permit processes, environmental regulations and policy uncertainty.

“These findings are despite a raft of proposed, in-train and recently completed government initiatives to reduce red tape and encourage economic development,” the report stated.
“These are issues that the QRC [Queensland Resources Council] will raise with government as a matter of priority.

“Encouragingly, the government has committed to work with the QRC and industry to deliver necessary reforms to support the exploration sector.”
Just days earlier, Queensland Natural Resources and Mines minister Andrew Cripps fronted investors and miners at the Mining 2013 Resources Convention in Brisbane to spruik a swathe of industry-friendly reforms and incentives.

“The Newman Government is determined to make Queensland the most attractive jurisdiction in Australia for the resources sector and amongst the most highly competitive around the world,” Mr Cripps said.
“We are committed to making the business of mining in Queensland simpler [and] are cutting unnecessary green and red tape wherever we can.”
In mid October, Mr Cripps announced a new policy for faster and more efficient exploration permit assessments which could potentially halve the time for companies to be granted exploration permits while maintaining environmental, native title and land access standards.

“In the very short time since these reforms were flagged, my department has worked particularly hard to implement the process, and we have cleared a backlog of approximately 1400 exploration permit applications at various stages for the assessment and approvals process,” he said.
Mr Cripps also used his conference address to open the “first ever” tender for coal tenure under new competitive bidding processes, calling for non-cash tenders to explore for coal on land in the northern Bowen Basin in central Queensland.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) stated that the announcement “demonstrates the Queensland Government has listened to AMEC and the needs of explorers”.
Mr Cripps described the Queensland Government’s Future Resources Program, announced in the June state budget, as something he “was particularly proud of”. “This program allocated $30 million over three years for the Geological Survey of Queensland to support exploration activity in Queensland, which we know is the lifeblood of our resources industry,” he said.

“We have done a lot but we are keen to do more, and we believe there is clear scope for ongoing legislative reform.
“The Newman Government inherited some 4000 pages of resource legislation, incorporating some 15,000 statutory requirements on exploration and mining related activities in five major resource acts.
“We will continue to strip that legislation back.”