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Environmental impact statement (EIS) processes

General requirements for mining or petroleum/gas projects

Every mining or petroleum/gas project requires both a tenure from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines that gives access to the land, and an environmental authority from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) that regulates the environmental management of the project.

Before a mining or petroleum/gas project can be given an environmental authority, the Environmental Protection Act 1994 requires that the project’s likely environmental impacts should be assessed and measures proposed to avoid or minimise any adverse impacts. A low impact mining project that can comply with a Code of Environmental Compliance is subject to the minimum level of assessment and may be given an environmental authority with standard conditions.

Applicants for non-code compliant projects must submit an environmental management plan (EM plan) that identifies the environmental values that could be affected by their project and assesses the potential adverse and beneficial impacts on those values. The EM plan must also propose environmental protection commitments to protect or enhance the environmental values. The EM plan assists EHP’s development of conditions for the draft environmental authority. For these medium sized projects, it is only at the draft environmental authority stage that the public has the opportunity to review and object to the application and/or the draft environmental authority and its proposed conditions.

Requirement for an environmental impact statement (EIS)

Major mining and petroleum projects can be required to undergo an environmental impact statement (EIS) process preceding, and additional to, the draft environmental authority stage. EHP has published trigger criteria (PDF, 81K) for mining and petroleum projects that would usually be required to undertake an EIS under the Environmental Protection Act 1994. EHP has revised the EIS triggers for mining projects as part of its Greentape Reduction initiative. The above link is to the revised Trigger Guidelines. 

Links are provided on this page to information about projects currently required to complete an EIS process under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, and to information about projects whose EIS process has concluded.

The EIS process

The EIS process should identify the same environmental values and propose the same environmental protection commitments that would be found in the EM plan, but an EIS typically goes into greater detail. The EIS is used by the proponent to develop an EM plan.

The EIS process also allows a greater level of public scrutiny. At an early stage, terms of reference are developed that provide the minimum expectations for the scope of the EIS. EHP publishes generic terms of reference (Word, 489K)* to assist the development of project-specific draft terms of reference. The draft terms of reference are made available for a minimum period of 30 business days so that stakeholders and any member of the public can review the document and comment on what values, impacts and commitments should be considered in the EIS.

To support the generic terms of reference, EHP has developed an Information guideline for an EIS under the EP Act.

When the proponent has produced the EIS, it too is made available for a minimum period of 30 business days for stakeholders and the public to review the document, and to submit comments on the quality of the proponent’s assessment and commitments. In this way, everyone can have added confidence that best efforts have been made to identify all significant impacts and propose all reasonable and practicable measures to protect the environment before EHP develops the draft environmental authority.

Public notices are used to advertise the start of the public review period for each terms of reference or EIS. Public notices are placed on the EHP web site and in the Courier-Mail and newspapers circulating in the area of the proposed project site. Some people are also notified by mail, including: people who hold land on, or adjacent to, a proposed tenure; a registered native title body corporate or claimant, or a representative Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander body; and the relevant local government authority.

The EIS process under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 can only be used for mining or petroleum/gas projects. It cannot be used solely for making a decision under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, such as for an environmentally relevant activity (see the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 for definitions of environmentally relevant activities). However, in certain circumstances an EIS can be required under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 or the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 whether or not the proposed project is related to mining or petroleum or gas. The Department of State Development Infrastructure and Planning can provide information on those EIS processes.

Relationship to EHP Regulatory Strategy

The EHP Regulatory Strategy promotes a strong focus on environmental outcomes while improving efficiency of effort for both customers and the department.

Under the Regulatory Strategy, the risk of serious environmental impacts arising from a proposal is a key factor driving how EHP responds. For low-risk proposals, if the proponent provides adequate information, this will be accepted ‘at face value’ and approvals will set ‘standard conditions’ for expected outcomes.

Proposals that involve high risks will continue to require closer scrutiny by EHP and the department may apply site-specific conditions where appropriate. Resource projects triggering the EIS process will attract the most intensive scrutiny.

Referrals to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee

Under the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Mining Development (NPA) the Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) will give the Queensland Government expert scientific advice on coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals that the State refers to the committee.

The State makes the decision whether to refer projects to the IESC based on consideration of whether the project application is likely to have a significant impact on water resources. This is distinct from the referrals process for matters of national environmental significance under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

EHP has published a protocol (PDF, 552K) which specifies how the Queensland Government will decide which project applications should be referred to the IESC for advice (in accordance with the terms of the NPA).

The Queensland Government does not intend any referrals it makes to the IESC to extend project timelines. Exceptions to this are expected to be rare and will be determined by Queensland Government officers, in consultation with the IESC and the proponent.

Applicable fees

From 1 January 2011, a proponent for a project preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 must pay a fee.

The fees apply to all projects involving an EIS process, including an approved application for a voluntary EIS.

This fee is in addition to the fee that must be paid at the time of lodging an application for an environmental authority (mining activities). The applicant for a project under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 must pay the application fee and the first annual return fee at the time of making an application.

All proponents preparing an EIS must also pay a fee at the time of submitting the draft terms of reference.

fee is also payable when the proponent submits an EIS.

If the project proponent is seeking approval to undertake a voluntary EIS prior to making an application for an environmental authority, the application to undertake a voluntary EIS must be accompanied by a fee.

A notice by the proponent of an EIS for an amendment must be accompanied by a fee. However, an amendment of an EIS will be exempt from the fee if the amendment is being made by the proponent in response to submissions under section 56(2) of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

These fees may be subject to an annual Consumer Price Index adjustment. Please call 13 74 68 (13 QGOV) or email to confirm the latest fees.

Related information

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Last updated
18 October 2016