The Western Australian Government will continue to work with the Oakajee Port and Rail (OPR) partners, despite the exclusive arrangement expiring on December 31, 2011.

Premier and State Development Minister Colin Barnett said that from January 1, 2012, OPR would no longer have exclusive rights over the project, opening the way for the Government to work with industry to attract new partners to deliver the Oakajee project.

Mr Barnett said the State Government and the OPR partners had agreed to remove the exclusive arrangement in the Oakajee State Development Agreement.

The NSW Government is inviting feedback on the directions and issues to be addressed in a coal and gas strategy for NSW.

NSW Trade and Investment has ordered an indefinite suspension of production at the Werris Creek Open Cut Coal Mine, operated by Whitehaven Coal Ltd, near Tamworth.

Stephen Galilee has taken up his position as the new Chief Executive of the NSW Minerals Council.

Two new regulatory bodies, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) and the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) commenced operations on 1 January 2012, following recommendations by the Productivity Commission and the Montara Inquiry.

The Western Australian Environment Minister Bill Marmion has upheld the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to reject Vasse Coal Management Pty Ltd’s proposal to develop a coal mine north-east of Margaret River, citing serious risks to environmental values as the main concern.

“In making my determination, I’ve decided it’s likely there would be significant impacts or risks from the proposed mine on the Leederville and Sue aquifers and on significant environmental values which these aquifers support,” Mr Marmion said.

In May, the EPA reported the proposal would be environmentally unacceptable, due to serious risks to important environmental values in the Margaret River region. Five appeals were received in objection to the EPA’s report, including one from the proponent.

After considering the appeals and a report from an independent Appeals Committee, the Minister formed a view that the conclusions of the EPA were justified, particularly noting the uncertainty of risks to surface and groundwater in the Margaret River area. 

In coming to his decision, Mr Marmion concluded that further assessment was unlikely to significantly alter the level of uncertainty. 

“Margaret River is a unique region with important environmental values which should be protected. From an environmental perspective, this project is too risky,” he said.

Having formed the view that the project is environmentally unacceptable, the Minister is required under section 45(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 to now consult with relevant decision making authorities on whether or not the proposal may be implemented based on broader social and economic factors. This process will commence as soon as possible to provide the proponent and local community with certainty regarding the proposal.  

A new CSIRO Chile International Centre of Excellence in Mining and Mineral Processing has been launched that will develop technologies that will reduce the environmental impact of mining and increase its productivity.

The Federal Government has announced intentions to develop a harmonised coal seam gas (CSG) framework after a meeting of energy and resources ministers from across Australia.

 The construction of the $29 billion Wheatstone natural gas project has begun after a groundbreaking ceremony was held at Onslow on Western Australia’s Pilbara coast.

Coal miners Whitehaven and Aston Resources have announced a $5.1 billion merger of equals, with Aston shareholders set to receive 1.89 Whitehaven shares for each Aston share, following distribution of a fully franked special dividend of $0.50 per share to existing Whitehaven shareholder

Chevron has invested more than $5.7 million to establish an endowment capable of supporting a Professorial Chair in Gas Process Engineering in perpetuity at The University of Western Australia.

The University of Queensland has created a $20 million partnership between industry, government and researchers to initiate and operate the new Centre for Coal Seam Gas (CCSG). The funding of up to $20 million has been committed by Queensland, QGC, Santos and Arrow Energy to operate the centre for the first five years.

The CCSG will harness capability from UQ and other academic collaborators and be hosted by UQ's Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI).

Bandanna Energy has announced the appointment of highly experienced mining executive Michael Gray as the company’s new CEO, effective from January next year as he joings the company as Managing Director.

The Western Australian Government has outlined a further $6 million in round 4 of the Exploration Drilling Program.

INPEX Corporation has announced a Sales Purchase Agreement that will see an estimated 70 per cent of all LNG produced at the $20 billion Ichthys Project delivered to Japan.

The Federal and NSW governments have co-signed an intergovernmental agreement that will see the construction of a $1.1 billion freight corridor, aimed at removing 200,000 trucks a year off the state’s roads.

The Western Australian Government has followed the Federal Government in granting conditional approval for Aquilla's iron ore project in the West Pilbara, in which the company  holds a 50 per cent interest in a joint venture with American Metals and coal International.

Coal mining company NuCoal has announced it will cancel its planned exploration activities in the face of mounting opposition from New South Wales Government and a local landowner.

The Australian Labor Party has voted to change its platform on exporting uranium to India following an impassioned debate at the party’s national conference.

The Federal Government and mining giant Rio Tinto have announced the partnership to ensure a native title agreement in the Pilbara that will serve to ensure benefits for the local Indigenous population.

The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics’ (BREE) September quarterly report shows a 4 per cent increase in the value of Australia’s resources and energy exports. The increase brings the quarterly export value to a record $48.8 billion.

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