The Queensland Government recently released for consultation its draft Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan (QRIDP). The QRIDP outlines the Government’s 30-year vision to transform Queensland’s resources industry.
Key focus areas and actions
- Growing and diversifying the resources industry;
- Strengthening environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials and environmental protection;
- Fostering coexistence and sustainable communities;
- Fostering strong and genuine First Nations partnerships;
- Building a safe and resilient future workforce; and
- Improving regulatory efficiency.
Each focus area contains a number of proposed actions and strategies including developing, implementing and updating various initiatives, programs and strategies relating to achieving the outcomes outlined under each key focus area. Various actions signal future legislative reform which we consider further below.
Growing and diversifying the resources industry
- Reviewing the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety Act) 2004 (Qld) to provide an efficient and transparent regulatory framework for hydrogen and other clean energy resources such as biomethane, hydrogen blends and other renewable methane gas blends. These resources are deemed critical to Queensland and the world’s transition to net zero emissions by 2050;
- Investigating carbon capture, use and storage and include areas for carbon storage feasibility exploration under the Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009 (Qld) in future rounds of the Queensland Exploration Program; and
- Investigating the feasibility and financial sustainability of common user infrastructure such as roads, rail, ports and electricity, in partnership with the resource industry, in the hope it will stimulate investment and assist major resource developments to proceed.
Strengthening ESG credentials and environmental protection
- Implementing an operation policy which requires applicants of new and existing resource activity environmental authorities (EA) to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions;
- Requiring EA holders to implement greenhouse abatement plans;
- Establishing a government-industry ESG working group to determine appropriate government action for supporting ESG in the resources industry; and
- Investigating the feasibility of establishing an independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect Queensland’s environment. This is currently underway with the Government having commenced public consultation on the establishment of an EPA and is due to close in February 2022.
Fostering coexistence and sustainable communities
- Implementing the findings of the Queensland Government review of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017 (Qld);
- Consulting with stakeholders and the public about a draft set of principles for strong landholder relationships which outlines behaviour expectations for resources companies around coexistence issues; and
- Reviewing land access institutions to ensure they are well aligned, contemporary and efficient, with particular focus on the scope and function of the Land Access Ombudsman and GasFields Commission Queensland. This includes whether these entities could perform their functions under a single entity.
Fostering strong and genuine First Nations partnerships
Improving regulatory efficiency
- Referring the objections processes for mining leases under the Mineral Resources Act 1989, including the Land Court’s role in this process and whether a consistent process should be applied to petroleum leases, for review to the Queensland Law Reform Commission;
- Reviewing the associated review processes with EA under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld); and
- Investigating opportunities to streamline broader review mechanisms for other decisions across the Resources Acts to achieve greater transparency, consistency and equity for stakeholders.
Other areas of proposed regulatory reform and process improvements include:
- Removing mining claims from the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) which would immediately implement a moratorium on accepting new mining claim applications while consultation on such proposal occurs through the QRIDP;
- Removing the prohibition on using steel casing in horizontal coal seam gas wells under the Petroleum and Gas (Safety) Regulation 2018 (Qld) and Coal Mining Safety and Regulation 2017 (Qld) where there is no overlapping tenure, and consult with the industry on any additional change; and
- Developing a data resources development plan to ensure the quality and value of datasets on land, property, geospatial and geoscience.
Key takeaways and next steps
The publication of the draft QRIDP reflects the Government’s commitment to ensuring Queensland’s resources industry is not left in the dust as the world transitions towards a lower carbon economy and as investors become more ESG-conscious. It highlights the Government’s desire to ensure Queensland is placed in a position where it can seize the opportunities relating to the increased demand for New Economy Minerals, while taking steps to shore up existing resources productions of coal and gas by lowering its emissions intensity through innovative technologies such as carbon capture use and storage.
Currently, consultation on the draft QRIDP is underway as the Government seeks to obtain feedback from targeted stakeholders. Should you wish to provide your feedback on the QRIDP, this will need to be submitted by 11 February 2022. The final plan is anticipated to be released in mid-2022.
KWM will continue to monitor and report on the progress of the draft QRIDP over the coming year.
References1 Resource Acts include the Mineral Resources Act 1989, Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, Petroleum Act 1923, Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014, Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009 and Geothermal Act 2010.