"Government and industry don't want to admit there is a real conflict of interest in government issuing exploration licences and earning [the government] hundreds of millions of dollars, and then it turns around and says that it can independently assess the mine project," he says.
Andrew Macintosh - Associate Director of the Australian National University's Centre for Climate Law and Policy - says EIAs are as much about public consultation as they are about improving environmental outcomes. On that question, he feels the EIA process also leaves a lot to be desired.
"The problem is that public participation sounds nice in theory and a lot of people support it in theory, but in practice it isn't working," Macintosh says.
To begin with, the EIA reports, which are required to be made available for public comment before a decision is made on a project, are often inaccessible.
"The public gets 30 days to make comment on an EIA that can be up to 5,000 pages long, which is completely unrealistic," he says. "A lot of them are standardised documents, and they just basically fill in the gaps, so the reader is often faced with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pages of gumpf."