Forging ahead – legal update on the WA mining and construction sectors

By Jodi Reinmuth, Mark McAleer, Eve Lynch, Tristan Iredell , Gerard Woods


Mining has long been a cornerstone of the Australian economy. In the wake of COVID-19, the industry has remained largely resilient, particularly in Western Australia where mining operations have remained open and infrastructure projects are being prioritised, enabling job opportunities and continuing to provide economic stimulus for Australia. But, as we grapple with the full force of the public health and economic crisis, we need to be prepared for what's to come and what will change.

Given Western Australia's geographic positioning and low infection rates, WA's mining and construction sectors are well placed in the midst of, and emerging out of, COVID-19 and will continue to be a key player underpinning Australia's economic recovery.

There are challenges ahead – the most immediate being the uncertainty surrounding the rate of recovery across other states and in particular Victoria. In addition, there remains the potential for COVID-19 out-breaks elsewhere as restrictions are continually eased, and potential ripple effects from other jurisdictions, including in terms of supply upside. The first half of 2020 has seen considerable disruption from COVID-19, which has restricted demand in some sectors outside mining and associated construction (with expansion projects being scaled back or shelved), yet has also seen an immediate up-tick in others, such as state infrastructure projects as an economic stimulus measure.

M&A activity has also been disrupted. Companies are re-assessing their acquisition and divestment strategies, exacerbated by continuing changes in foreign investment rules. However, taking a longer-term view of value, we expect to see an increase in M&A activity.

So, we have paused for a moment to summarise the developments of the first half of 2020 and comment on the trends and predictions going forward in the WA mining and construction space. Security of payment in the construction industry is facing an overhaul, the State is refocusing on infrastructure, and State Agreements continue to prove their relevance in mining and resources projects.

While market conditions evolve, legal developments and reform in the WA mining and construction space continue, particularly in the areas of competition, environment and construction. The preceding period has seen numerous authorisations, discussion papers and legislative amendments, which are gathered together in the insights that follow. It is a good time to consider the impact of these legal developments alongside likely future trends. We also reflect on some COVID-19 specific issues and developments. Some of the pieces (such as environment updates) have been the subject of separate Allens publications, but we have collated them here for ease of reference.

We are tracking the market and would be very interested to hear your plans for future proofing. We would also welcome any feedback on these insights and suggested topics we should cover in future editions. Please feel free to get in touch with us with any queries.