The report from the State Parliament EDIC Inquiry into Greenfields Mineral Exploration and Project Development in Victoria will be released later today. The Inquiry is a key test of whether the government has any consistency on planning and community engagement when it comes to new mining projects.
Since the committee began its investigation, the social and political terrain has shifted substantially in Victoria. While this review is part of a longer term reform of the laws covering mineral exploration, in the public realm it has grown to become a litmus test of how the government is responding to community concerns about the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.
“Community concern about new coal and gas proposals continues to grow across southern Victoria” said Friends of the Earth’s Cam Walker.
“While the government claims that existing laws will protect land owners rights, it is clear they are under pressure to produce a report that shows they are responding to these concerns”.
“The EDIC report will be judged on this basis. For the government to show it is listening, it must commit to a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects until there has been a thorough assessment of the likely impacts of this industry.”
“As they stand, Victoria’s mining laws are broken” said Michael Power, Law Reform Lawyer at the Environment Defenders Office. “They don’t protect the environment or regional communities. That must change.”
“The environment needs strong protection through a better approvals process, and ‘no go’ zones for the most sensitive areas. Communities need a real say in mining proposals, by having the right to appeal mining approvals to VCAT. A lot of the regional communities we’ve worked with will be very upset if the report doesn’t deliver that.”
Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham said today:
“This inquiry is a key test into whether the Baillieu Government has a consistent approach to community input into planning and approvals of new developments. Currently a single landowner can hold a wind farm developer to ransom while a whole town has no formal mechanism for opposing a new coal mine.
This inquiry offers an opportunity for the Baillieu Government to demonstrate that it is prepared to put the public interest ahead of fossil fuel interests”.
It is expected that the report will be tabled by 3pm on Tuesday May 22.
Representatives of environment groups will be available for comment:
Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth: 0419 338 047
Michael Power, Environment Defenders Office: 0410 578 688
Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria: 0439 700 501