Inquiry into environmental offsets for major mining projects

THE Senate will lead an inquiry into environmental offsets for major mining projects, after Labor agreed on Tuesday to support The Greens' inquiry.

Offsets are commonly used in project applications to make up for likely damage to environmentally sensitive areas, if proponents agree to reserve other land from damage.

But the oft-criticised part of environmental laws will come under scrutiny in the inquiry, which will focus on several recently approved projects.

They will include dredging and spoil dumping at Abbot Point, Waratah Coal's Galilee Basin mine, QGC's Curtis Island LNG project and Whitehaven Coal's Maules Creek project.

The Greens Senator Larissa Waters said offsets were being used as a "tick and flick" for environmentally damaging projects.

She said such offsets were often "impossible to deliver on", and under-resourced environment departments were often unable to monitor the offsets.

"The environmental effectiveness of offsets has never been proven and yet they are being used as an excuse to approve damaging developments that should instead be refused under our national environment law," she said.

"This inquiry is an important opportunity for the Senate to get expert and community input on whether offsets can even deliver the promised benefits or whether they're being used as a smokescreen to allow irreparable damage."

It is understood Labor's environment spokesman Mark Butler has gained the Opposition's support for the inquiry, which is due to report by June 16 this year.

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