Work approval process for extractive industries

Extractive industries involve the extraction or removal of stone from land (commonly called a quarry) for sale or commercial use in construction, building, road or manufacturing works.

Before land can be developed for an extractive industries operation, in most cases:

  • a work plan must be statutorily endorsed under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA) and
  • a planning permit must be issued under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and
  • the final work plan must be approved and a work authority granted under the MRSDA (the Act).

A work authority gives the holder the right to extract the following earth resources:

  • sandstone, freestone or other building stone
  • basalt, granite, limestone or rock of any kind ordinarily used for building, manufacturing, or construction purposes
  • quartz (other than quartz crystals)
  • slate or gravel
  • clay (other than fine clay, bentonite or kaolin)
  • peat
  • sand, earth or soil
  • other similar materials.

A work authority must be obtained before any site activities commence, except in situations where the extractive activities being undertaken are exempt from the Act (refer to extractive industries exemption for more information).

This page outlines what Earth Resources Regulation requires to approve work via:

  • proof of operations complying with the Code of Practice for Small Quarries submitted to and confirmed by Earth Resources Regulation or
  • Earth Resources Regulation’s work plan approval process or
  • approval of work plan variation where significant operational changes to an existing work plan are proposed or
  • acknowledgement of administrative update where minor operational changes to an existing work plan are proposed, subject to certain criteria being met.

Please refer to the steps below for guidance about which approval process applies to your particular extractive industries operation.

The extractive industries approvals journey map provides additional information about the typical activities required to progress through the approval process. This is available on request by emailing Workplan.Approvals@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Work plan approval process

A work plan comprehensively documents how a quarry site is to be operated and rehabilitated throughout the life of the extractive activities being undertaken, including how hazards and risks will be managed and the community consulted. The work plan approval process, which also applies to work plan variations, entails multiple steps involving numerous stakeholders, including government authorities, related agencies and the local council.

Depending on the complexities of the proposed site and extractive industries operation, under the current regulatory scheme a typical work plan approval process can take 12-18 months. Earth Resources Regulation therefore recommends communicating and engaging with key stakeholders from the outset throughout the approval process which, based on experience and industry feedback, may help to minimise delays and unforeseen costs.

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Extractive industries projects range in size and quarrying methods. The resources being extracted use a variety of machines and equipment, and may require processing (dry or wet), blasting or dredging. Geographic location and proximity of operations to sensitive receptors (e.g. waterways, flora and fauna, heritage sites, residential areas) can add other levels of complexity that need to be considered.

It is therefore essential that you define your new quarry project or variation to an existing quarry as far as reasonably practical. Doing so may require site investigations and assessments; for example, to establish the extent and characteristics of the resource, the presence of sensitive receptors, or potential impacts such as noise and dust. Thorough project definition supports effective stakeholder engagement.

We recommend contacting our assessments team to discuss your proposal, especially if you’re a new proponent or are proposing complex changes to an existing quarry operation.

The initial site meeting allows you to discuss your proposal with Earth Resources Regulation, the local council and other relevant authorities and agencies, and to understand their requirements and any risks they may be concerned about. This information can help with developing your work plan or work plan variation to better align with legislative requirements, potentially avoiding later change requests and facilitating your progress through the approvals process.

Once Earth Resources Regulation has received your initial proposal information, we will review and provide advice about which agencies should attend the initial site meeting. Two types of agencies may be involved:

  • statutory referral authorities as specified in legislation and state planning provisions
  • non-statutory referral agencies that are considered necessary to informing the decision-making process.

Responsibility for scheduling, organising and running the initial site meeting rests with you as the proponent. This includes facilitating the meeting and taking meeting notes. Refer to the site meeting pack for detailed guidance about preparing for and conducting the site meeting, including the range of information that you need to compile and provide as part of your initial proposal, such as:

  • site location details
  • operation description
  • concept drawing(s)
  • land title
  • planning property report
  • planning advice (work plan variation).

Ongoing engagement, including follow-up meetings with Earth Resources Regulation and other agencies, is recommended to help clarify requirements and resolve issues. This includes geotechnical engagement sessions designed to assist with identifying risk management strategies and relevant investigations aligned to best practice. Learn more about these sessions at Better Approvals for Regulators.

If approval is being sought via the Code of Practice for Small Quarries, you will receive confirmation of eligibility following the initial site meeting and can then apply directly for a planning permit and subsequent approval from Earth Resources Regulation. Referral and statutory endorsement are not required.

For work plan variations where a planning permit already exists, the council will assess your application and may decide that the proposed variation:

  • is not covered under the existing planning permit, in which case a new planning permit will be required or
  • requires the existing planning permit to be amended or
  • is covered by a condition in the existing planning permit that enables the changes being proposed, in which case the council issues secondary consent and no endorsement is needed.

If a work plan variation requires planning permission, it must go through the statutory endorsement process.

Your work plan or work plan variation must describe the nature and scale of the proposed extractive activities, including the approach to meeting obligations under the Act. For further guidance, refer to preparation of work plans.

Although Earth Resources Regulation is the lead regulator for Victoria’s extractive industries, other regulators, referral authorities and agencies are involved in administering certain legislative and policy requirements to protect sensitive receptors and mitigate risk. These ‘co-agencies’ have the power to impose requirements and conditions on a quarry that must be complied with throughout the life of the operation and the site’s rehabilitation.

Co-agencies attending the initial site meeting will typically provide advice on risk management, compliance and other matters to be addressed in the work plan (where relevant), which Earth Resources Regulation will take into consideration. It is therefore important to engage them early in the process and to maintain regular communication and engagement when preparing your work plan or work plan variation.

If your project has changed significantly, new legislation has come into effect, or more than 12 months has lapsed between the initial site meeting and starting to prepare your work plan without ongoing engagement, a follow-up site meeting with these co-agencies may be necessary.

Sensitive receptors include the environment, any member of the public, land, property or infrastructure in the vicinity of the site.

Once you’ve prepared your work plan or work plan variation, lodge your application via RRAM, Earth Resources Regulation’s online Resource Rights Allocation Management portal.

Earth Resources Regulation will create a work plan application template in RRAM for your project after the initial site meeting.

The prescribed fee must be paid for the work plan to be formally lodged and Earth Resources Regulation to commence the assessment process. After you have lodged your work plan application in RRAM, Earth Resources Regulation will issue your invoice for payment.

Earth Resources Regulation will assess the work plan or work plan variation and notify you within 28 days as to whether the plan:

  • complies with legislative requirements in which case it will be referred to relevant authorities and agencies for review or
  • requires changes or additional information, which you will be requested to provide and must address in any subsequent submission or
  • has been refused. In this instance, if you wish to proceed with your proposal, you will need to lodge a new submission and pay the prescribed fee. For information about your appeal rights, refer to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s (VCAT) website.

Earth Resources Regulation will only refer a work plan or work plan variation to relevant authorities and agencies once we are satisfied that it meets the standard required and includes all the necessary information to adequately demonstrate compliance with the regulations. Before lodgement, please ensure your documentation meets all agency and authority requirements because:

  • a referral authority or agency cannot request further information or changes once the plan has been referred to them
  • if a referral authority or agency requires conditions, these are generally applied as work plan-specific conditions
  • if a referral authority or agency objects to your work plan, Earth Resources Regulation must refuse it.

Where council planning permission is not required, statutory endorsement of a work plan or work plan variation does not occur. Earth Resources Regulation may however refer the plan to relevant authorities and agencies, in which case we will advise you about any additional information requirements and will notify you within 28 days of our decision.

Once Earth Resources Regulation has determined your work plan or work plan variation complies with all regulatory requirements including those required by relevant authorities and agencies, it will be statutorily endorsed. You will then be provided with a statutory endorsement pack containing all the documents required to apply to the local council for a planning permit.

Documents for council include:

  • notice of statutory endorsement
  • copy of the stamped and signed statutorily endorsed work plan or work plan variation
  • statutory endorsement information for council
  • referral checklist record
  • referral responses.

At this stage, we will also provide you with documents to be submitted to us after you’ve received planning permission. These documents are required for your work plan or work plan variation to be approved. They include:

  • applicant checklist for the approval of a work plan or work plan variation
  • cultural heritage management plan declaration form
  • bond payment advice.

Where planning permission is required, you cannot submit your work plan or work plan variation for approval until you have obtained your planning permit or planning permit amendment.

All work plans (new sites) and some work plan variations (existing sites) will require a planning permit issued by the local council under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Please refer to the information in your statutory endorsement pack and contact your local council for more information about what’s required.

Planning Victoria’s planning practice note for extractive industry and resources (No. 89) may also provide helpful information about council planning requirements. Copies are available from the resource library on Planning Victoria’s website.

As highlighted in the previous section, you must include a copy of your statutorily endorsed work plan or work plan variation and supporting information with your planning permit application.

Before submitting your work plan or work plan variation to Earth Resources Regulation for approval, please refer to the applicant checklist in your statutory endorsement pack to ensure you have all the requisite information.

Earth Resources Regulation will assess your application and may refer it to relevant co-agencies or ask you to make changes. This typically happens where no planning permission is required or in circumstances where significant changes to your proposal have occurred during the planning application stage.

The statutory timeframes for assessing, referring and making a decision (to request changes, approve or refuse your work plan or work plan variation) are:

  • one month for a new work authority
  • 28 days for an existing work authority.

Once your work plan or work plan variation is assessed as meeting Earth Resources Regulation’s requirements and those of the local council and relevant co-agencies, it will be approved, registered and made available on RRAM.

Although your work plan or work plan variation has been approved (or Earth Resources Regulation has confirmed your operation qualifies under the Code of Practice for Small Quarries), you are not authorised to commence work until Earth Resources Regulation grants your work authority or work authority variation (as applicable). Depending on your proposal, this will be granted once you have fulfilled certain requirements including:

  • complying with any relevant work plan specific conditions
  • complying with any relevant planning permit conditions
  • applying for an extractives industries work authority (new sites) or a variation to a work authority (existing sites)
  • obtaining Crown land manager consent (where a work authority includes Crown land)
  • obtaining minerals licence holder consent (applies to new sites and existing sites where a minerals licence is in effect over any of the land or, in the case of an existing work authority, the new area)
  • completing a cultural heritage declaration and, if required, obtaining an approved cultural heritage management plan
  • entering into a rehabilitation bond.

Refer to the applicant checklist in your statutory endorsement pack for more information. Enquiries about work authority applications can be directed to licensing.err@ecodev.vic.gov.au

You should apply for a work authority and manage your application via RRAM.

Extractive industries exemption

Under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, the following extractive industries are exempt from regulation or authorisation:

  • extraction or removal of stone from land that is a farm for the purposes of a dam or for use on that farm
  • extraction or removal of loose stone from the surface of land undertaken by the landowner or an agent of the landowner for the primary purpose of land improvement on agricultural land including pasture enhancement
  • quarries less than one hectare in area and less than two metres in depth
  • extraction or removal of stone from land undertaken by or on behalf of the minister(s) responsible for the administration of the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987 where the primary purpose of extraction is for the footings or foundations of a building or structure; the construction of a carpark, road, track, or other works; or any borrow pit adjacent to such excavation
  • extraction or removal of stone undertaken during road construction activities undertaken by VicRoads and/or its agents within an existing or proposed road reservation, and the extraction of road making material by VicRoads and/or its agents from areas adjacent to specific road works projects
  • extraction or removal of stone undertaken during road construction activities by local government and/or its agents within an existing or proposed road reservation
  • extraction or removal of stone including dredging where the excavation constitutes works for marine navigational purposes or the establishment or renourishment of a beach
  • extraction or removal of stone where the excavation constitutes works for the purposes of establishing a port facility, railway or tunnel
  • extraction or removal of stone where the primary purpose of the excavation is for the footings or foundations of a building or structure.

For enquiries about whether your proposal may be exempt, contact errchiefinspector@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

Authorisation such as planning permission and licences to undertake certain activities may be required under other legislation.

Administrative update pathway

If you have a current work authority, you can make operational changes that do not require a work plan variation by undertaking an administrative update. Administrative updates are assessed and acknowledged by Earth Resources Regulation. If the proposed operational changes do not meet the criteria for an administrative update, a work plan variation is required.

To qualify for an administrative update, you must be able to address the following:

  • Describe the changes.
    Include all the proposed changes within the context of current operations and rehabilitation.
  • Demonstrate the proposed changes to operations or rehabilitation do not present a significant increase in risk.
    Identify all relevant risks associated with the proposed changes and assess them in accordance with the approach set out in the preparation of work plans and work plan variations guideline for extractive industry projects. A significant increase in risk is where the residual risk rating is high or very high after the application of controls.
  • Demonstrate the proposed changes do not require you to amend your community engagement plan.
    Activities detailed in the community engagement plan must be able to accommodate any community engagement requirements related to the changes.
  • Demonstrate the overall rehabilitation concept is not changing and there are no new post-relinquishment risks.
    Overall, the landform type and end land use cannot change. Landform construction specifications can however change as long as the associated residual risks are rated low or medium.
  • Provide written advice received from council confirming the proposed changes do not require planning permission.
    Seek council’s advice as to whether the proposed changes require planning permission. Council must clearly convey in writing its understanding of the proposed changes and confirm no planning permission is required.
  • Provide written advice from relevant authorities or agencies confirming they agree with the risk assessment and do not require any conditions.
    Consult relevant authorities and agencies about the potential impacts of the proposed changes on sensitive receptors they are responsible for managing or regulating. They must clearly convey in writing their agreement with the risk assessment relating to the proposed changes and confirm they do not propose any conditions.

To apply to have your administrative update assessed, use the administrative update, risk register and submission templates to record your assessment and email it to Workplan.Approvals@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Page last updated: 06 Sep 2022