Changes to the regulation of extractive activities
From 1 September 2022, the definition of ‘extractive activities’ in Schedule 1 of the POEO Act has changed.
What are the changes?
The EPA has amended the definition of ‘extractive activities’ in Schedule 1 of the Protection of Environment Operations (POEO) Act to ensure all extractive activities that pose a moderate to high environmental risk are licensed and regulated by the EPA. The licensing threshold is 30,000 tonnes per year of material extracted (regardless of whether the material is sold or reused) and introduces a conversion factor for the extraction of wet materials.
The definition also includes a separate licensing threshold of 30,000m3 per year for maintenance dredging undertaken by, or on behalf of, a public authority.
Specifically, the changes to the ‘extractive activities’ definition include:
- removing the reference to the primary purpose of the extracted material being ‘for sale’
- adding a conversion factor for converting cubic metres to tonnes for any wet material extracted
- reverting to the 2019 threshold of 30,000m3 for dredging undertaken by a public authority, or on behalf of a public authority
- adding an administrative fee scale in cubic metres for maintenance dredging by, or on behalf of, a public authority
- adding a new transitional arrangement for licensees who surrendered their ‘extractive activities’ licence due to changes to the definition in 2019, but who will be required to hold a licence again; these licensees will not be subject to the new licence application fee.
To help operators who normally work in cubic metres, the EPA has included a conversion factor in the activity definition: 0.65m3 = 1 tonne. Operators can use the conversion factor to compare their planned (or actual) amount of extraction to the licensing threshold of 30,000 tonnes. This will enable them to more easily work out whether they need to hold a licence.
If you dredge 21,500m3 of wet material, the conversion would be:
21,500m3 / 0.65 = 33,077 tonnes
In this example, the licence threshold of 30,000 tonnes has been exceeded and a licence would be required.
When a premises extracts both wet and dry materials, only the wet material should be converted, and the total weight of the materials added together.
Yes. You will not need to be licensed separately for ‘extractive activities’ if:
- you hold a licence for ‘railway construction – railway infrastructure construction’ and ‘road construction’1 as licences for these activities already authorise the extraction of materials
- excavation is undertaken as part of a licensed mining operation, as it falls within the exclusions listed in 19(2) of Schedule 1 of the POEO Act
- your operation extracts less than 30,000 tonnes (or equivalent) per year
- you are a public authority, or acting on behalf of a public authority, and your maintenance dredging operations extract less than 30,000m3 per year.
1 Clauses 33 and 35 of Schedule 1 of the POEO Act
If you extract wet materials and you already have a licence for ‘extractive activities’, you may need to recalculate the quantity of material you expect to extract, using the new conversion factor, to determine if the scale of operations listed in your licence remains correct. If it is not correct, you should consider whether you need to apply for a licence variation to amend the scale of operations permitted on your licence; or whether you require a licence at all.
If you have a licence and are a public authority, or acting on behalf of a public authority, and conducting maintenance dredging for navigational safety purposes, you should confirm whether your operations meet the 30,000m3 threshold.
If you are not currently licensed to carry out an extractive activity, but your operation does (or will) meet the new definition, you will need to apply for a licence or a licence variation, which authorises you to operate at that level. You will need to hold an appropriate licence within nine months of the new regulation coming into force on 1 September 2022.
You will not be required to pay the new application fee if you previously surrendered a licence due to definition changes made to ‘extractive activities’ in 2019, and now you require a licence again.
If you are dredging and unloading the spoil at a wharf or associated facility you may also require a licence which authorises you to carry out the scheduled activity ‘shipping in bulk’.
The EPA also made changes to the ‘shipping in bulk’ scheduled activity that cover operators who unload dredging spoil. The definition now includes a broader range of materials, that have similar environmental risks (e.g. dust, spills, noise) when loading and unloading, to those already regulated.
These changes ensure a level playing field, provide a consistent regulatory approach and will result in better environmental outcomes.
We recommend you review the changes to ‘shipping in bulk’ to determine whether your operation meets the new definition of this scheduled activity.