On 20 March 2020, QRC wrote to the Premier seeking urgent relief measures for the resources sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Key areas included work program and relinquishment relief, rents and fee deferral.
The QRC Resources Policy Team have been in constant communication with the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy on exploration program and relinquishment relief. Given Western Australia, South Australia and even NSW has a draft response activity out, it looks as though Queensland is lacking action in this space. The Department is working on a path forward and is taking more time because it has been very clear it will not be applying blanket relief measures for the industry as a whole (like in Western Australia and South Australia). Instead, the Department has indicated its prefers to manage variations due to COVID-19 on a case by case basis. One of the key reasons for this is the Department still wants to stay in control for compliance reasons. The Department sought advice from QRC and other peak industry bodies on some of the detail of how this approach could work.
On Thursday 9 April all the peak industry bodies (QRC/APPEA/AMEC) wrote to Deputy-Director General, Georesources Shaun Ferris outlining further details on these relief measures (please find letter below). The following are of note:
- The Natural Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (NROLA) commences on 25 May 2020. This legislation is quite good timing as it will provide the coal and mineral industry with automatic relinquishment relief
- An expedited process for variations of work programs (and relinquishment for petroleum), including timeframes for decision.
- Seeking confirmation that COVID-19 is considered an ‘exceptional circumstance/event’ and scenarios around when the Department will consider these applications (for example a variation due to COVID-19 from April 2020 to April 2021?)
- Specific challenges for petroleum given COVID-19 coupled with recent oil price collapse
- Rent deferral, however noting might be particularly challenging for the department given rents are written into legislation as a pre-requisite to grant/renewal.
- Consideration to how notifications may be managed under COVID-19 – can these be provided purely online? There is concern by companies regarding land access relations and social distancing.
- Seeking an Expression of Interest (EOI) process for further coal land releases – particularly those areas that could be brownfields (close to shovel ready).
Overall the key is communication and the industruy bodies have asked the Department communicate to industry through a statement/policy on its direction (whether concrete or not) to give some level of certainty.
The QEC will continue to provide updates to members as received via the QRC.