Environmentally relevant activities

Use our forms and fees finder for information on applying for a new environmental authority (EA) or managing your existing EAs.

If you intend to conduct an environmentally relevant activity (ERA), you must apply for an environmental authority (EA). The EA will license you to operate the ERA.

It is an offence under section 426 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to carry out an ERA without holding or acting under an EA. Read Applying to conduct an environmentally relevant activity (ESR/2023/6510) (PDF, 207KB) for more information on unlicensed operators and requirements to apply to conduct an ERA.

Types of ERAs

The 3 categories of ERA are:

  • prescribed ERAs
  • resource activities
  • agricultural ERAs.

Prescribed ERAs

Prescribed ERAs are industrial or some intensive agricultural activities that have potential environmental risks. Examples include chemical manufacturing, sewage treatment, cement manufacturing and poultry farming. These activities are listed in schedule 2 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019.

Higher risk ERAs are treated differently from lower risk ERAs. The administering authority will use 'operational thresholds' to determine the risks of your ERA, and your annual fees.

For example, sewage treatment plants are regulated at different thresholds based on the design treatment capacity of the plant. The higher the capacity, the higher the level of potential environmental risk. This will increase the annual fee. Summary of annual fees for ERAs (PDF, 1MB) has more information about ERAs and operational thresholds.

Some proposals may involve more than one prescribed ERA. These are referred to as 'prescribed ERA projects'. In your application, you should list all the prescribed ERAs to be carried out as part of your project (i.e. as a single integrated operation).

Resource activities

Many resource activities will require an EA. The EA is in addition to the tenure requirements under resource legislation. Resource activities include:

  • mining activities (Mineral Resources Act 1989)
  • petroleum activities, including coal seam gas activities (Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982, Petroleum Act 1923). Note: This will include some activities related to the manufacture and transport of hydrogen
  • geothermal activities (Geothermal Energy Act 2010)
  • greenhouse gas storage activities (Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009).

Note: In Queensland, greenhouse gas storage activities are prohibited within the geographic area of the Great Artesian Basin. That is, the area that is on or below the surface of the plan area under the Water Plan (Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers) 2017.

Resource activities frequently include activities which are listed in schedule 2 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019. These are referred to as ancillary activities, since they form part of the resource activity as a single integrated operation on-tenure.

For example, most mining activities would include some chemical storage (section 8, schedule 2 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019) as part of their operation. This activity can be included as part of your application for an EA. If the chemical storage activity is to be undertaken off-tenure, the activity is a prescribed ERA and a separate EA application is required. Once the EAs are granted, they can be amalgamated into a single EA. The Summary of annual fees for ERAs (ESR/2015/1746) (PDF, 587KB) outlines the resource activities that require an EA.

If you are planning to undertake a mining activity, you will need to apply for a mining resource authority from the Department of Resources. You will then need to apply for an EA from the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation (DESI) using your tenure reference number. Some EA applications, called resource projects, may involve more than 1 resource tenure licensed as a single integrated operation.

Note: If you are applying for a site-specific EA for a mining lease, then an application for a progressive rehabilitation and closure plan (PRC plan) is required. If a PRC plan does not accompany a site-specific application for an EA for a mining lease, a proposed PRC plan will need to be submitted at a later stage in the application process. An EA for a mining activity will only be approved with a PRCP schedule.

If you are planning to undertake a petroleum, geothermal or greenhouse gas storage activity, you will need to apply for your tenure with the Department of Resources before you apply for an EA with DESI.

Mining activities that meet the definition of small scale mining activities (ESR/2015/1827) (PDF, 184KB) in the Environmental Protection Act 1994 do not require an environmental authority. These activities however, still need to comply with requirements under the Mineral Resources Act 1989, Mineral Resources Regulation and, financial assurance and rehabilitation conditions under schedule 6 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019.

Agricultural ERAs

Agricultural ERAs are specifically described in section 79 Environmental Protection Act 1994 as cattle grazing, horticulture or the cultivation of another crop (e.g. bananas or sugarcane) carried out in the Great Barrier Reef catchment (PDF, 1.3MB).

Some Agricultural ERAs are subject to prescribed methodologies (bananas and sugarcane) or agricultural ERA standard (grazing) that detail minimum practice agricultural standards that are to be complied with. These new requirements for agricultural ERAs are rolling out from 1 December 2019 to 1 December 2022.

Find additional resources on reef protection regulations.

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