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Victoria is set to defer the collection of $3.5 million in rent and annual fees until January next year to give an immediate boost to mining and exploration companies.

This follows the Victorian Government’s decision to freeze all fee increases that were due to come into effect in July.

Minerals exploration is deemed significant to the rebuilding and recovering the state economy from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Victorian Government.

Victoria’s Earth Resources Regulation will also consider the impacts of the pandemic in its decision-making processes for new licence and authority approvals, and changes to existing conditions such as expenditure requirements.

“Businesses in our resources sector have done a fantastic job in keeping the industry operating – this is a practical way that we can ease the pressure on them and help keep people in jobs,” Victoria’s Minister for Resources Jaclyn Symes said.

The move received praises from the Minerals Council of Australia, which stated that the government’s short-term measures would help keep the pipeline of new projects open.

“Victoria’s explorers and miners with exploration tenements are facing significant disruptions including to people movement and equipment access as a result of COVID-19,” MCA Victoria’s executive director James Sorahan said.

“Difficulties accessing ground have made it challenging for some explorers to meet their licence conditions through no fault of their own.”

Sorahan also cited that exploration investment was coming under pressure as capital markets became more risk-averse, with S&P Global Market Intelligence warning that mining exploration spending could drop by 29 per cent this year globally – the lowest in 15 years.

“A revival in exploration is critical to Victoria’s recovery. Exploration works must continue to secure future mines and jobs in exploration, mining and minerals processing in regional Victoria,” he said.