North Australia Digest – 20/12/2012

The Australian

Woodside Petroleum’s West Australian Browse project is facing legal action to overturn environmental approvals for the project due to conflicts of interest on the West Australian Environmental Protection Agency board. If successful, the action could lead to a restart of the entire environmental approvals process for the joint venture at James Price Point.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has responded to the further delays to environmental clearance at Toro Energy’s Wiluna uranium development, accusing Environment Minister Tony Burke of “playing politics”. Having already extended the decision deadline from November 6, Toro expected an announcement yesterday only to find out it had been extended once more to March 31. “The Toro project has gone through a detailed assessment through the state, and I think for the federal minister to now try and delay the final commonwealth approval, I suggest, is playing politics,” Mr Barnett said.

John Holland will cut 108 staff after being notified that output would be reduced at the coal-rich Bowen Basin mine in central Queensland. This follows a string of mining companies laying off thousands of workers, closing unprofitable mines and postponing expansion projects as the sector faces rising operating costs and lower commodity prices

The Australian Financial Review

Trade Minister Craig Emerson will release a report on Thursday that will propose plans to help Chinese investors develop agriculture in northern Australia. The report, developed by a committee of Australian and Chinese officials and businesspeople, covers the potential for the Ord Irrigation scheme in Western Australia and Northern Territory, the Atherton Tableland as well as focusing on opportunities and regulatory hurdles.

The Age

Citi oil and gas analyst Mark Greenwood has said liquefied natural gas prices have “peaked for now” as an increasingly competitive global market poses a threat to the “traditional Asian pricing” that Australian developments have become comfortable with. Australia is still rushing to complete seven big LNG export projects worth over almost $200 billion.

The West Australian

Environmental Protection Authority chairman Paul Vogel has supported business concerns that State and Federal green tape is delaying mining projects and said that more should be done to “streamline cross-border environmental approvals”. This comes after further delays from Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to the approval date for Toro Energy’s uranium project at Lake Wiluna.