Australia: mining licence process map

February 2021

What is the process for awarding mining rights in Queensland and Western Australia? What steps must a company and the government follow?

These ‘maps’ present the process as a step-by-step guide. They shed light on a process that is often complex and complicated, rendering it more transparent.

Their purpose is to help stakeholders – whether they be from government, industry or civil society – to identify points within the process where transparency and public accountability need to be strengthened, if corruption risks are to be reduced.

Increasing the transparency and public accountability of the process has the benefit of not only reducing corruption risks but increasing public trust and confidence in that process.

As mining licence processes differ across Australian jurisdictions, these maps focus on the mining-rich states of Queensland and Western Australia. 

Mining Lease process in Queensland

This process map describes the steps involved in applying for a mining lease to extract and sell minerals in Queensland.

Queensland is one of the largest mining jurisdictions in Australia. Mining makes up the largest contribution to the Queensland economy, accounting for 11.7% ($39.6 billion in 2019/20). Queensland’s coal and bauxite reserves are some of the largest in the world. Coal, liquified natural gas and minerals account for around 81% of the value of Queensland overseas exports.

Before a mining lease is granted in Queensland, mining applicants need to satisfy a number of related approval requirements, for example, environmental approvals, native title and Aboriginal cultural heritage agreements, compensating private landowners and addressing any objections to the application.

A mining lease may also include authorisation for activities associated with mining – such as infrastructure to support mining operations, the processing of minerals, tailings dams, various types of water storage or treatment plants and rehabilitation and remediation associated with these activities.

The Queensland Department of Resources is responsible for assessing all mining lease applications.

Mining lease process in Western Australia

This process map describes the steps involved in applying for a mining lease to extract and sell minerals in Western Australia (WA).

In the 2020 Fraser Institute survey of mining companies, WA ranked number 4th for investment attractiveness globally. WA is the main exporter of minerals and petroleum in Australia, accounting for 56% of Australia’s mining gross value added in 2018-19. Mining accounted for 36% of WA’s gross state product in 2018-19. Iron ore accounted for 60% of WA minerals and petroleum sales in 2019-20, and in 2019 WA contributed 32% to global iron ore production. Other minerals mined in WA include gold and bauxite, nickel, base metals and lithium.

Before a mining lease is granted in WA, mining applicants need to satisfy a number of related approval requirements. These can include environmental approvals, native title and Aboriginal cultural heritage agreements, compensating private landowners and addressing any objections to the application.

The WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) is responsible for assessing all mining lease applications

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT PROCESS for COORDINATED MINING PROJECTS in QUEENSLAND

The purpose of this process map is to identify points within the environmental impact assessment process for coordinated projects where transparency and public accountability need to be strengthened.

Coordinated projects can involve multiple approval requirements across different local, state and federal government departments. Once a project is classified (declared) a coordinated project, the environmental impact assessment process is coordinated through the Office of the Coordinator-General.

The coordinated project process is an efficient way to coordinate whole-of-government approval processes. However, the broad discretionary decision-making powers available to the Coordinator-General to facilitate state development can also create risks if those powers are not exercised in a highly transparent and accountable manner.

In 2017, Transparency International Australia’s Mining Awards Corruption Risk Assessment identified corruption risks associated with the Coordinator-General’s discretionary powers. These included the risk of external interference in the Coordinator- General’s recommendations, evaluations and imposition of conditions, and the risk of policy and state capture (undue influence) by mining companies.