Scoping is a routine approach used by mining and other companies during the early phases of project design to identify technical, environmental and social elements that may influence the project.

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About scoping

An application for a mining lease (ML), miscellaneous purposes licence (MPL), retention lease (RL) or change in operations must be supported by a proposal providing a structured environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the associated impacts.

Scoping can be defined as a systematic process that:

  • Determines the appropriate geographical and temporal boundaries of the EIA.
  • Identifies all relevant issues, potential risks and factors that are likely to be of most importance to the EIA and eliminates those that are of little concern.
  • Establishes the scope of the EIA and sets the basis for:
    • the breadth of the baseline studies, analyses, and modelling to be undertaken
    • the approach to be used for impact assessment and methods for the development of mitigation and management measures
    • a programme for meaningful stakeholder engagement and review.

Scoping can be considered a risk reduction tool’ that is implemented at the outset of the EIA process. Scoping is used in a number of Australian and overseas mining jurisdictions and provides an early indication of important considerations for the approvals process.

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Benefits of scoping

Scoping has many benefits, such as:

  • increased certainty about the time, expenditure and level of information required for a project impact assessment
  • greater understanding of the potential impacts and technical study areas that should be included in the project impact assessment
  • reduced risk of additional works and related schedule or expenditure impacts during the mining application process.

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Industry consultation

In October 2022, a draft scoping framework was shared with industry partners, who had the chance to ask questions during a live question and answer session with DEM and consultancy technical experts.

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Development of industry guidance and resources

Based on industry consultation, DEM has now finalised the scoping framework. DEM is currently developing a scoping guideline which will define the scoping process from an industry perspective. This will be available in April 2023, along with supporting resources. These include a screening and scoping checklist, scoping report template, and impact significance tool.

You can find out more about scoping in the frequently asked questions below.

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Frequently asked questions

  • Give applicants an opportunity to engage early with government and stakeholders to get a thorough understanding of expectations of the scope of work appropriate to undertake the project’s impact assessment.
  • Outline the most appropriate assessment pathway for projects, based on the project’s scale and complexity.
  • Ensure that the level of assessment is proportionate to the project’s potential environmental impacts, considering project type, scale, duration and the sensitivity of the location of mining and ancillary operations.
  • Ensure the impact assessment and lease application focuses on the key matters for decision-making.
  • Provide an assessment process that promotes efficiencies, transparency and clarity on approval pathways and technical assessments.
  • Facilitate stronger alignment and integration of South Australian and Australian Government objectives to further streamline requirements and reduce regulatory burden for the proponent.

The first step of the scoping process, screening, is strongly recommended for all potential quarrying and mining-related projects. Screening uses a high-level overview of the project’s risks to indicate whether the project should follow DEM’s defined impact template or the scoping process.

Scoping generally has the most benefit for projects that anticipate complex environmental or social impacts and sensitivities. However, as a tool for more thoroughly understanding the project’s impacts before doing in-depth, costly studies, scoping is recommended for  projects that don’t meet the defined impact pathway.

The scoping process can be used in preparation for a:

  • Mining lease application
  • Miscellaneous purposes licence application
  • Change in operations application where additional impact assessment studies are required

As outlined in Part 10 of the Mining Regulations 2020, scoping is not a mandatory requirement for mining or quarrying projects.

Scoping is intended to be voluntary for the majority of projects. Where a project is likely to have complex environmental or social interactions, including potential for an accredited assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), the Minister may determine scoping is required.

Scoping is strongly encouraged where the project is likely to include:

  • Complex or unclear environmental impacts
  • Complex socio-cultural matters
  • High environmental sensitivities
  • The application of new technologies or approaches
  • The application of multiple laws

Scoping is already undertaken informally as part of the existing pre-lodgement process. Formalising the process is intended to create a clear and repeatable structure for the pre-lodgement process.

The benefit of this approach is that scoping will provide a documented process that:

  • provides regulatory certainty and efficiency
  • provides an opportunity for the proponent to define the key potential impacts, and the nature and extent of information that will be required to make an informed decision about the project at the mining lease application stage focuses
  • ensures formal endorsement, consistency and continuity, even in the event of departmental or company personnel changes.

While all projects are subject to the same comprehensive whole of government assessment, the scale and impacts of mining projects can vary significantly. The level of assessment required for each individual project needs to be proportionate to the scale and likely impacts of the project. Scoping will enable the applicant and government to identify the likely significant environmental, technical and social impacts that are relevant to the particular project proposal and the level of information required to prepare a proposal which supports regulatory decision-making.

This is intended to create a focused and efficient approach to the development of a proposal proportionate to the impacts posed by the specific project. This will determine the baseline studies, analyses and any modellings required; outline the approaches for impact assessment, identify potential mitigation and management measures, and assist in the development of programs for meaningful stakeholder engagement and review.

A gazetted Terms of Reference for lease applications is intended to remain in place for those projects that do not follow an individual scoping process.

For projects undertaking scoping, the final endorsed scoping report is intended to act as the project-specific terms of reference. In these cases, the scoping report will set out the required studies, modelling, impact assessment methods, mitigation and management methods, and engagement approach.

Yes, co-regulators will be involved in the scoping process. The relevant agency will be present at the kick-off meeting if the screening process identifies a potential impact within their area of expertise.

DEM is developing and updating MOUs with our co-regulators to ensure that working arrangements are relevant and incorporate the scoping process.

As part of the screening stage, proponents will develop a description of the environment based on the outcomes of a comprehensive desk-top review. In most instances (although not all), it will be possible to gather enough desk-top data to determine whether a project is likely to require referral under the Commonwealth administered EPBC Act.

At the kick-off meeting, there will be consideration of whether the data gathered to inform the description of the environment is robust enough to inform the preliminary identification of potential impacts – including whether there has been sufficient consideration of whether the project might trigger EPBC Act requirements.

Engaging with stakeholders early in the process provides valuable information for applicants to better understand the potential impacts of their project and assist in determining the significance of these impacts. It also informs the ongoing refinement of the project’s engagement plan and demonstration of how feedback received during engagement has been considered in the project’s development.

While there will not be an opportunity for stakeholders to provide comment on the scoping report, the final scoping report will be published, providing stakeholders the opportunity to understand the project being proposed and identifying the matters and approach for engagement with the applicant during the development of the proposal.

The final scoping report will be published with a caveat that approaches outlined in the report may vary as new information comes to light during detailed impact assessment.

No, the timeframe associated with mineral claims is not able to be varied. However, scoping can commence before a mineral claim is pegged or if the applicant does not hold the underlying exploration licence, DEM will work with the applicant to provide an efficient mechanism to identify the information required to develop a high-quality proposal which meets regulatory requirements.

The scoping framework will be finalised in early 2023. Work has begun on a package of accompanying resources, which will include guidance material, templates, checklists and tools. A draft scoping guideline is expected to be released in Q1 of 2023.

To ensure that the scoping process is fit for purpose, DEM will be undertaking broader engagement with industry in early 2023, including identifying opportunities to pilot or test the materials against suitable projects.

Information on the scoping and progress will be updated on this webpage.

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Learn more about scoping:

International sustainability consultancy Environmental Resources Management (ERM) will support the government process of integrating scoping into the mine application process.

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Your feedback and questions

If you have any questions about the scoping process or which to provide feedback contact us via email:

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