Lure of mining 'in freefall'

QUEENSLAND’S “horrible” environment for mining exploration is becoming even uglier, the industry’s peak body says.

Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche says the state’s policy settings are bad and getting worse, with the Labor government buckling to green pressure and reneging on promises to miners.

Mr Roche told guests of the Australian Copper Conference the lure of mining in Queensland was “in freefall”, pointing to the Fraser Institute’s index which ranked Queensland the 38th best place to mine in 2010/11.

This was down from eighth in 2006/07.

“2010 was a horrible year for policies affecting the attractiveness and ease of exploration in Queensland,” he told the Brisbane conference on Thursday.

“We had sweeping changes that complicated land access for explorers, the continuing roll-out of the Wild Rivers policy ... the threat of strategic cropping land legislation, as well as growing landholder activism and agitation.”

Mr Roche said green groups were “becoming the farmers’ new best friends” – referring to the new allegiance against the growing gas industries on the Darling Downs, west of Brisbane.

The Australian Greens, whose role could be pivotal in the coming state election, want a moratorium on the industry.

The sector had also been baffled by the government’s introduction of laws this week that cancel and deny the renewal of North Stradbroke Island leases held by miner Sibelco.

“The immediate response from QRC directors was disbelief, followed by the nagging question of whose mining leases now also run the risk of being cancelled without reason or recourse,” Mr Roche said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Queensland had a 19.4% share of mineral exploration in 2010, compared to 57% in WA.

Mr Roche urged focus on a strategy to make Queensland a leader in greenfields exploration by 2020.

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