Weipa bauxite mine nod sparks ‘destruction’ fears


May 16, 2013 14:49:33

Conservationists have accused the Federal Government of “environmental vandalism” in approving a large bauxite mine near Weipa on Cape York in far north Queensland.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday approved Rio Tinto Alcan’s $1.3 billion South of Embley project, subject to 76 conditions aimed at protecting the environment.

The mine could produce up to 50 million tonnes of bauxite a year, which will be shipped to Gladstone in central Queensland for processing.

Wilderness Society spokesman Dr Tim Seelig says the project will see 30,000 hectares of land cleared and increase shipping movements through the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Seelig says it will hurt the economy in the long run.

“Mining of this sort of magnitude is not a great, sustainable way of developing economic futures for people on Cape York,” he said.

“We would say look to the destruction that’s going to occur here and how that will impact on long-term opportunities for ecotourism and for things like World Heritage Protection.

“They’ve only just flagged that the Great Barrier Reef is at risk in danger of being classed as World Heritage.

“Danger and approval like this is simply going to send the message to UNESCO that the Federal Government is not serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart says it will see 900 more shipping movements through the Great Barrier Reef.

She says Mr Burke has made the wrong call.

“At the moment all we see him doing is giving the tick to more industrial development and more threats to World Heritage areas,” she said.

Decision defended

However, Mr Burke has defended his decision to approve the mine on Cape York.

He says it equates to a less than 0.5 per cent increase in shipping across the reef.

“There’s an increase, but it’s absolutely at the margins,” he said.

Mr Burke says independently reviewed shipping plans will help prevent problems.

‘Track record’

Rio Tinto Alcan needs final approval from the Queensland Land Court before construction of the mine can begin.

The company’s president, Pat Fiore, says he is confident the project will not harm the environment.

“We also have the track record with our existing operation at Weipa – we’ve been there for 50 years,” he said.

“We’ve been shipping from Weipa to Gladstone for over 40 years and we have a very strong track record of how we do it and that’s the way Rio Tinto works.

“We’re very confident that we will continue that way [at] South of Embley.”

Mr Fiore says five years of research has gone into the project to ensure the environment is protected.

“A lot of the work of course has been in this environmental impacts study both for the State and the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Significant amount of studies and mitigation action plans to make sure that we meet all the conditions and actually mitigate the impact on the environment.”


First posted

May 16, 2013 12:46:05

Source Article from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-16/weipa-bauxite-mine-nod-sparks-destruction-fears/4693922

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