Marmion backs out of fee war
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion has bowed to industry pressure on the implementation of controversial environmental fees, announcing the deferral of any cost-recovery measures for mining applications.
The apparent backflip on the July 1 fees rollout, announced to industry players by Mr Marmion’s chief-of-staff Colin Edwardes, followed emergency meetings in Kalgoorlie-Boulder last weekend when the minister “listened to constructive industry input”.
“Other funding options have come forward and are now under consideration by my department,” Mr Marmion said yesterday.
“I am confident this approach will help reduce confusion and concern.”
The backdown has taken the heat out of an issue which triggered months of fierce lobbying from groups including the Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association and Goldfields First, together with MPs from both major political parties and indigenous leaders.
The scramble is now on to claim credit for the move as politicking over the issue continues.
Statements were issued yesterday from the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, with both industry bodies welcoming the move to freeze the introduction of fees for assessment of mining proposals and program of works.
AMEC chief executive Simon Bennison declared common sense had prevailed, while CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith called the move a “sensible decision”.
Others met the announcement tentatively, with Greens MP Robin Chapple and Goldfields First flagging serious and enduring concerns with the Mining Amendment Bill.
Mr Chapple said the announcement was “simply a deflection”, saying the deferral of cost-recovery fees would only put further stress on small miners.
“If the minister had truly listened to industry input then he would scrap the fees entirely,” he said.
“Anyone with half a brain knows prospectors and small miners are the backbone of the industry.”
Goldfields First spokesman Byron Moller, while applauding the minister for granting “temporary relief ”, said members still had serious concerns with the Bill, including the introduction of coercive powers.
All eyes are now on the Department of Mines and Petroleum to give further indication that the introduction of the fee structure will be abolished. It is understood the minister will consider increasing rental charges for tenements across the board to pay for costs associated with the environmental department fees restructure.