Director General talks reform at nickel conference

Spotlight on WA's nickel industry during conference
Date: Thursday, 02 October 2014

Reforms and the importance of consultation key issues raised during DG's address at Nickel event 

Ongoing reforms and the importance of continued consultation were the main themes of a speech delivered by Department of Mines and Petroleum Director General Richard Sellers.

Mr Sellers delivered the opening address at the Paydirt 2014 Australian Nickel Conference earlier today and said it was essential current reforms within the sector continued in close consultation with stakeholders. He highlighted the work in approval reforms as a major achievement.

"Since the introduction of our approval reforms, we have cut the backlog of outstanding mineral title applications from more than 18,000 in 2007 to just over 4000 today - the lowest level in two decades," Mr Sellers said.

"This will reduce even further under our current push to expand the existing approvals transparency to other related government agencies including Aboriginal Affairs, Water, Environment Regulation, the Environmental Protection Authority and Parks and Wildlife."

Mr Sellers said he could not stress strongly enough the importance of consultation in shaping WA’s resources future.

"Resource projects are being developed in an increasingly complex and challenging social and community environment," Mr Sellers said.

"This environment demands that industry has greater environmental, economic and social accountability which in itself highlights the importance of transparent decision making and community engagement for the successful delivery of new projects.

"The challenge Western Australia now faces, is the ability to sustain growth of the resources sector and remain an attractive investment destination and that includes agencies such as ours helping build confidence with stakeholders and the community."

He said the value of Western Australia’s resources in 2013-14 was a record $121.6 billion with nickel coming in as the State’s fourth most valuable mineral sector at $3.5 billion.

For the first half of that year, US dollar prices negatively impacted the sector but a combination of rising prices and the weakening Australian dollar resulted in an increased price of about two per cent for nickel producers in 2013-14.

In the same period, the quantity of WA nickel sales fell by nine per cent to 209,000 tonnes, while the total value fell by four per cent.

However, nickel has benefited from the State’s Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS) established in 2009.

In that time, the scheme's flagship Co-funded Exploration Drilling Program has offered more than $50 million to over 460 resources projects in Western Australia.

In 2013-14, there were 33 nickel discoveries across the State – part of a total of 271 projects where nickel or base metals are being targeted.

Mr Sellers also noted that the Mining Rehabilitation Fund, introduced voluntarily in July last year and now compulsory, had the potential to boost WA’s exploration and mining investment.

More than 95 per cent of tenement holders met the 30 June 2014 compliance deadline.

Mr Sellers said the department has already retired more than $290 million in environmental bonds over the past year and a further $900 million in bonds should be retired Mr Sellers says, over the next 12 months.

"This will free up much needed funds for new exploration or mine development," he said.

Interest earned on the fund will be used to pay for its administration and to undertake rehabilitation works on legacy mine sites throughout the State, leading to better environmental and community safety outcomes.

Mr Sellers said the fund was a world first that was now under review by other Australian states for possible introduction.