Avonbank EES & Project Approvals

EES Overview

The Avonbank Project is currently at an approvals stage, which WIM expects may take up to two years to complete. 

The main project approval is required from the State Government, under the Environmental Effects Act (EES Act), this requires WIM Resources to assess all of the environmental, social & economic impacts of the Avonbank Project and provide all stakeholders the opportunity for input & comment.

In July 2019, WIM made a Referral to the State Minister for Planning, under the EES Act. Click the for a copy of the project referral: Avonbank EES Referral

In September 2019, the Minister decided that an EES would be required for the Avonbank Project. Click here for a copy of the Ministers Decision: Avonbank EES - Ministers Decision

 

CURRENT STUDIES

WIM has been undertaking several baseline studies, including air quality, radiation, groundwater, flora & fauna, soils, rehabilitation and once completed will exhibit these studies, as well as many other studies, including transport, infrastructure, social, economic, cultural heritage

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS STATEMENT 

An Environment Effects Statement (EES) usually contains:

  • A description of the proposed development
  • An outline of public and stakeholder consultation undertaken during investigations and the issues raised
  • A description of the existing environment that may be affected
  • Predictions of significant environmental effects of the proposal and relevant alternatives
  • Proposed measures to avoid, minimise or manage adverse environmental effects
  • A proposed program for monitoring and managing environmental effects during project implementation.

 

HOW DOES THE EES PROCESS WORK?

 

STAGE 1 - Referral - Project referred to Minister for Planning

A project is referred by a proponent or decision-maker in accordance with the referral criteria. Click here - Avonbank EES Referral

 

STAGE 2 - Decision - Minister's decision on the need for an EES

The Minister will make one of three decisions, normally within 20 business days of accepting a referral:

  • Yes, EES is required. Approval decisions are put on hold until the EES process is completed.
  • No, EES is not required. Decision-makers can proceed with their approval process.
  • No, EES is not required but conditions must be met. Conditions might relate to the location or dimensions of the project or mitigation measures, or alternately requirements for further studies or consultation.

Click here for a copy of the Minister’s Decision for the Avonbank Project

 

STAGE 3 - Scoping - Scoping requirements for EES studies and report set by Minister

The matters to be investigated and documented in an EES are set out in the 'scoping requirements' issued by the Minister. These are different for each project and depend on the associated environmental risks. Draft scoping requirements are prepared following input from the proponent and other agencies. These are released for public comment for at least 15 business days before the final scoping requirements are published.

Scoping Requirements are yet to be released for the Avonbank Project, however will be uploaded to this page, once in hand.

 

STAGE 4 - Preparing the EES - Proponent prepares the EES

The proponent must prepare a quality EES, as well as a study program and consultation plan consistent with the scoping requirements. A Technical Reference Group (TRG), with members from government agencies, local government, and statutory authorities, is appointed to provide advice to the proponent and the Department during the preparation of the EES.

A TRG has been formed and engagement has commenced. WIM has undertaken a detailed risk assessment for the Avonbank Project and has commenced and in some cases completed detailed baseline studies, so that the existing environmental conditions are well understood.


STAGE 5 - Public Review - Exhibition of EES and lodgement of submissions

When the Minister is satisfied that the EES is suitable, it is released for public comment for between 20 and 30 business days. During this time, the public can make written submissions.

The Minister may appoint an inquiry to evaluate the effects of the project, having regard to the EES studies and public submissions. The inquiry may take one of three forms, depending on how complex the issues are:

  • A desktop review of written submissions
  • A conference of submitters and review of submissions
  • A formal hearing, where the proponent and submitters can speak and present expert witnesses.

STAGE 6 - Assessment - Minister's Assessment of environmental effects

As the final stage of the EES process, the Minister prepares an Assessment considering all relevant information including the EES documents, public submissions, the proponent's response, and the inquiry report. The Minister's Assessment is normally provided within 25 business days of the inquiry report being finalised.

The Assessment includes findings on the environmental effects, and may conclude that the project:

  • will have an acceptable level of environmental effects or
  • will not have an acceptable level of environmental effects or
  • would need major modifications and/or further investigations to establish that acceptable outcomes would be achieved.

STAGE 7- Informing decisions - Decision-makers consider the Assessment

Decision-makers must consider the Minister's Assessment in deciding whether to approve a project under Victorian law or to authorise public works. While the recommendations in the Assessment are authoritative, they are not usually binding on decision-makers.

Community Engagement

When the proponent prepares their EES, they must develop and implement a Consultation Plan to inform individuals and groups who could be affected and provide opportunities for input.

Consultation helps the proponent to identify issues of concern and potential effects, as well as get feedback from stakeholders on project options or potential mitigation measures.

Members of the public can also participate in the EES process by providing written comments on the draft scoping requirements and the final EES. If an inquiry is appointed, there may also be an opportunity to make a verbal submission

WIM has formed a Community Reference Group (CRG) to assist with ensuring community views can be fed back to WIM and vice versa – project information can be communicated to the wider community.

WIM Resource Avonbank Project

The figure below provides an overview of the WIM Avonbank Project development process. Project exploration began in 2013, scoping and pre-feasibility studies commenced in 2015 and 2017 respectively, followed in 2018 by baseline studies and stakeholder consultation as preliminary work on the approvals process,

After referral on July 2019, Victorian Minister for Planning determined in August 2019 that an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) was required for the project under the provisions of the Environment Effects Act (EE Act).

The Minister’s decision (click here) requires the EES to document the investigation and avoidance of potential environmental effects of the proposed project, including for any relevant alternatives (such as for the mining extent, methods for mining and processing, water supply and transport of mining outputs), as well as associated environmental avoidance, mitigation and management measures. In particular the EES is required to address:

  • Effects on the land uses of the site and surrounding areas, including the implications for agricultural productivity;
  • Effects on land stability, erosion and soil productivity associated with the construction and operation of the project, including progressive rehabilitation works;
  • Effects of project construction and operation on air quality, noise and visual amenity of nearby sensitive receptors (in particular residences;
  • Effects on surface water environments, including local waterways and the broader catchment, as well as groundwater (hydrology, quality, uses and dependent ecosystems);
  • Solid and liquid waste that might be generated by the project during construction and operation.
  • Both positive and adverse socio-economic effects, at local and regional scales, potentially generated by the project, including increased traffic movement and indirect effects of the project construction workforce on the capacity of local community infrastructure;
  • Effects on biodiversity and ecological values within and in the vicinity of the site, and associated with adjacent road reserves and crown land, including: native vegetation; listed threatened ecological communities and species of flora and fauna; and other habitats values; and
  • Effects on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultural heritage value;

Avonbank Project Status and Timelines

The EES will be prepared and evaluated through full stakeholder scrutiny before the project receives regulatory approvals. Commonwealth approval may also be required, and Avonbank was referred to the Commonwealth Department of Energy and Environment (DoEE) in late 2019 to determine if any Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) issues would be triggered.

A Draft Study program and timetable and a draft EES Consultation Plan has been provided to the Department of Environment; Land Water and Planning (DELWP, managers of the EES Process) for discussion. From these documents, DELWP will develop formal Draft Scoping Requirements stipulating the area required to be addressed in the EES.

DELWP has convened and chairs a Technical Reference Group of regulatory agencies to review work carried out by WIM under the project’s Scoping Requirements.

WIM has identified that to address the matters identified in the Ministerial decision technical studies required for the EES will include at a minimum, those listed below. Once formal Draft Scoping Studies requirements are issued by the Minister for Planning, this list may require amendment.

 

 

 

Regulatory Approvals

The EES will be exhibited publicly, then subject to a public inquiry panel hearing. Finally, the panel report will be considered by the Minister for Planning to determine if the project can proceed.

Decision-makers including but not limited to those administering the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and Water Act 1989 – all relevant to the Avonbank Project - must consider the Minister for Planning’s Assessment in deciding whether to grant statutory approvals for a project under Victorian law. While the recommendations in the Minister’s Assessment are authoritative, they are not usually binding on decision-makers.

WIM aims to complete the regulatory approvals for the project in 2022 and commence project construction activities once signed off by the WIM board. To obtain all approvals, the project must be fully designed and costed, and all relevant environmental, social and economic issues addressed.