WA billionaire Gina Rinehart has launched yet another scathing attack against burdensome bureaucracy, laying the blame for delays to advancing a key iron ore development in the Pilbara squarely on State Government red tape and duplication.
Australia’s richest person pushed the button on progressing the McPhee Creek project near Nullagine shortly after her Hancock Prospecting scooped up Atlas Iron for $427 million in 2018 amid a three-way takeover tussle.
But releasing full-year results for Atlas on Thursday, Mrs Rinehart said “significant increases in government processing times and multi layers of red tape” had further delayed the project, which is expected to produce about 14 million tonnes a year.
“This is a project that would deliver an additional $2 billion in additional tax and royalty payments to Government, as well as delivering hundreds more high-paying jobs,” Mrs Rinehart said.
“The Government needs to do more to reduce red tape and streamline approvals if it wishes to help raise living standards.
“Shackling industry with more uncertainty via time-consuming regulation and duplicated compliance is only damaging Australia as a predictable and reasonable place to invest. Investment being essential to enable living standards to rise.”
Atlas chief executive Gerhard Veldsman echoed Mrs Rinehart criticisms, saying the hold-up in approvals was delaying future revenue and tax-delivering projects.
Non-executive director Sanjiv Manchanda said the Government needed to address processing times and look for more opportunities to streamline processes.
“The current policy environment, duplication of processes, overreach from all departments and massive delays for approvals, threatens further mining investment and hence revenue, at a time when Australia is in record debt, needs more hospitals, defence, police and to look after our increasing elderly and deserving veterans,” Mr Manchanda said. “In short, when we need it most.”
Further approvals for McPhee are now expected by December, but Atlas said work had progressed to allow construction to start as soon as they were granted.
Mrs Rinehart is no stranger to calling out what she considers overly cumbersome paperwork and regulation, particularly regarding water access for her vast agricultural empire.
Atlas reported cash generation of $180 million last financial year from the sale of 8.9mt of iron ore from its Mt Webber, Sanjiv Ridge and Miralga mines.
Revenue slipped 9 per cent to $1.2 billion as prices for the steel-making ingredient came off record highs and exports were hampered by port constraints and limited berth access at the Utah shipping facility.
Atlas said favourable discounts for its 58 per cent iron products helped to buffer the impact of lower iron ore prices and shipments, resulting in earnings before tax of $427m, down from $467m the previous year.
The junior is targeting production of 10mt this financial year.