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On the speaking circuit in 2015 a new rhetoric has emerged.

Combinations of overcapacity, slowing consumption growth and a stronger US dollar have forced most mineral and energy prices into a rapid decline over the past year.

As a result there has emerged a frantic state of affairs across the country.

Exploration spending dropped nine per cent year-on-year to $1.3 billion in the March quarter as the commodities freefall disincentivised investment.

The expansionist directions of companies in the past few years have dramatically stopped as companies look to tighten their budgets.

While there are still more projects in the pipeline, the potential of any further investment beyond that is closely linked to commodity prices.

As the investment dollars begin to dry up, resources ministers, representatives and leaders are taking to the stage to lure potential investors into their respective states.

The hard task of attracting greenfield projects is only set to get harder and the stage is set for an all-out battle royale between the states.


WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The ‘lucky state’ has long been associated with mining projects from Roy Hill to Yandi to Hope Downs.

The State Government has been fortunate enough to find a steady stream of investment dollars into WA. The current downturn, however, has dampened Premier Colin Barnett’s glory days.

His Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Marmion has been talking up the future potential of the state as much as possible. The minister is sure of WA’s strong mining future.

“The State Government provides prospective investors with a number of unique offerings that have assisted Western Australia to become one of the world’s leading minerals and energy producers,” he said.

“One of the most important positives the WA government offers investors is certainty. Our mining and petroleum legislation and regulations are based on the principles of transparency, predictability and fairness.

“The WA government is committed to minimising red tape while ensuring the state’s resources are developed in a responsible manner.

“Reforming processes and introducing online approvals services have enabled end-to-end tracking of mining and petroleum applications across the Department of Mines and Petroleum, while reducing duplication and improving timelines.

“The government recently completed the streamlining of key processes under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 and is working to expand this system to other government agencies.

“To further improve certainty of approvals processes and reduce assessment timelines for industry, the Department of Mines and Petroleum aims to conduct all its transactions online, including applications, fees, submissions and correspondence, by July 2016.”

Of course, the benefit of having Liberal Premier Colin Barnett opening the doors for any investment that will boost his coffers is paramount, but does that mean WA will continue to enjoy the sort of investment that has been steadily raising living standards in the state for years?


QUEENSLAND

The new State Government on the block, Queensland Labor led by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, started by shooting down the uranium industry in the state, despite supporting the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.

Despite the fact the state has established itself as a powerhouse for LNG development, it remains to be seen whether Queensland will be able to continue to attract further investment that will allow it to knock rival WA off the podium.

Premier Palaszczuk only recently appointed James Purtill as the Director-General of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines. He kicked off his tenure by saying the Queensland government had faith in the state’s resources industry.

“Queensland is recognised globally as a world-class producer and leading destination for mining and petroleum and gas resources investment and Australia’s gateway to Asian markets,” he said.

Mr Purtill said the government was working to streamline the assessment processes.

“Industry in Queensland is already benefitting from one of the most advanced natural resources permit lodgement, management and assessment systems in the world,” he said.

“Coal, mineral, petroleum and gas companies operating in Queensland can now lodge applications for their resources permits electronically through the MyMinesOnline system.

“This online service is making a big difference to industry and giving companies greater certainty, helping them to attract investment and get projects up and running faster.

“Exploration permit application timeframes, for example, have been slashed by over 70 per cent compared to the old over-the-counter paper lodgement system.”

Mr Purtill added that exploration was the most important thing for the state.

According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Queensland remained an attraction exploration destination.

“But we can do better,” Mr Purtill said.

“That is why the Queensland government continues to deliver initiatives that support exploration investment and activity.

“Innovative programs like the Collaborative Drilling Initiative and Industry Priorities Initiative will continue to help industry better target exploration opportunities, reduce risk by providing high-quality, pre-competitive data and attract investment.”


SOUTH AUSTRALIA

With the recent jobs cuts at BHP projects, South Australia is working hard to ensure the next round of investors looks favourably on the state.

In its recent budget SA abolished a number of inefficient taxes that impeded investment including share duty, stamp duty on non-real property transfers, non-residential property transfers and genuine corporate reconstructions.

South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said tax would save businesses $670 million per year.

“By July 2018 all business property transactions in South Australia will be tax free – the only jurisdiction in the country to implement such reform,” he said.

“In addition, the State Government recently announced a new $15 million investment fund aimed at bringing new jobs to South Australia.

“Modelled on similar successful funds in Ireland and Singapore, it will be the leading body within government for all major investment attraction activity from both overseas and interstate companies.

“This new investment arm will lead all major investment attraction activity by proactively identifying and facilitating potential investment.

“These funds will be available to companies planning to expand or move that could create jobs in South Australia.

“The State Government will be working to attract capital to growth sectors and establish new operations of international firms and facilitate the start-up of new industries.”

As well as an open for business government mantra, the state holds some attractive resources.

“With more than two-thirds of Australia’s total copper resource in South Australia, we are ideally placed to boost the state’s annual production to rival our global competitors,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“We will be looking beyond the current cycle to where South Australia should be in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Mr Koutsantonis said he was confident South Australia was the right environment to foster growth.

“South Australia is a low-cost business location, with full-time labour costs nine per cent below the Australian average and below all mainland capital cities,” he said.

“South Australia has unique and natural advantages in the mineral resources and energy sector along with other advantages, including our affordability, our liveability and our open for business government.”


NEW SOUTH WALES

While New South Wales state leaders encourage development, activists and environmentalists in the state tie their hands.

Recently residents in the New South Wales Highlands launched a bid to stop exploratory coal drilling in the Southern Highlands.

While the bid was overturned, these continuous anti-coal campaigns slow down development in the state.

A spokesperson at the Department of Industry, Resources and Energy said the state had some of the toughest regulations in the country, but was committed to providing companies with stable framework.

“Mineral resources and mining are important to NSW but must be conducted in a safe and environmentally-sustainable manner,” the spokesperson said.

“That is why NSW has some of the toughest regulations in Australia around rehabilitation and especially coal seam gas activities.

“NSW provides a safe and reliable market in which companies can operate.

“The NSW government funds exploration initiatives designed to stimulate private mineral exploration and investment across the state which is largely unexplored.”


VICTORIA

A relative darling on the Australian mining scene, Victoria has worked with coal and iron ore as well as oil offshore.

Recently the Andrews Labor government affirmed its support for the resources sector, in the hope of cementing Melbourne as a global mining hub – a major aspiration of Perth.

In July Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio hosted a resources roundtable advising on the International Mining and Resources conference.

The roundtable featured industry heavyweights and mining identities.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the resources industry was key to the state’s future.

“Melbourne already has competitive strengths globally in the resources sector through its mining businesses and professional services,” she said.


TASMANIA

The Tasmanian government says mineral processing is going to be one of the biggest growth sectors in the state.

Mining and minerals processing employs more than 4000 people and represents about 50 per cent of the state’s net export value.

“The eyes of the world are now on us and under this government Tasmania is open for business,” Tasmanian Minister for Resources Paul Harriss said.

“There’s no doubt mining across Australia has been going through a tough period.

“But with forecasts that most commodity prices will have recovered by 2017 and with our rich diversity of resources, we need to lay the groundwork now to fully capitalise on the upswing.

“The government is doing exactly that by embracing new technology and innovation, sending a message to investors that Tasmania is open for business in mining and working with industry to cut through the barriers and get new projects off the ground.

“We are already seeing a number of positive signs, including a new bauxite mine at Bald Hill, which is Australia’s first bauxite mine in more than 30 years, a mining lease issued to Forward Mining for the proposed magnetite iron ore mine at Rogetta and Unity announcing $5 million in new exploration work.”


NORTHERN TERRITORY

The Northern Territory, the final competitor in the race for resources dominance, is banking on its proximity to Asia to take it over the edge.

In 2007 the Northern Territory government launched a four-year China Minerals Investment Attraction Strategy to position the territory as China’s preferred source of minerals and metals.

This has now been expanded and includes Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Minister for Mines and Energy David Tollner said the Northern Territory was ready to drive its economic growth through unlocking its resources deposits.

“We’re spreading the message about what the NT has to offer across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

The government is also undertaking an extensive exploration initiative to stimulate exploration spend in the territory.

This includes $2 million per year over four years on an accelerated collaborative program to assess the NT’s shale gas resources and potential, $1.65 million for enhanced management and delivery of geoscience and exploration data to industry and $1.25 million for regional geoscientific studies to assess mineral potential in key areas of the NT amongst other measures.




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