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WA move to cut environmental approval costs

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Newly appointed Western Australian mines minister Bill Marmion is throwing support behind junior miners, vowing to streamline environmental approvals processes.

The move would greatly benefit the cash-strapped smaller players in the mining sector but it does potentially put Marmion in the firing line with environmental and greens groups.

Marmion recently outlined an $8 million electoral commitment to create a digital environmental database, the West Australian reports.

The former environmental consultant said his vision is to have all environmental data freely available online.

A plan that gives miners access to regional environmental data, potentially reducing expensive consultancy bills which can be above $500,000 for mid sized mining projects.

Exorbitant environmental consultancy fees have long been a pain point within the sector, with every mining lease application requiring an environmental report.

Marmion accepts private companies and green groups won’t be thrilled with the idea but urged them to hold back until the database’s parameters are outlined.

"There are still a number of hurdles," Marmion said.

"But from my perspective, the website simply provides a mining company with information that's already (produced by environmental consultants) and I think that's OK. It shouldn't be secret; it should be available for them."

Marmion said his experience in the environment consultancy sector and as an environment minister makes him aware of how the industry works.

"And one would be concerned if environmental consultants have done a report, and another mining company comes in and it's right next door, but they charge a similar fee when really it's an update," he said.

"At the very least it will allow companies to know what's at a site."

The Department of Mines is currently working on a prototype which is expected to be released by the end of the year.

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