Skip to main content

Emergency heritage listing lodged to protect Cape York from wave of mining development

Media Release
The Wilderness Society (Qld) Inc.
31 January 2012

The Wilderness Society (TWS) has sought emergency National Heritage listing for four areas on Cape York Peninsula under serious threat from destructive mining proposals (see attached map and table).

With the region currently being considered for World Heritage and National Heritage listing, TWS has written to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke requesting urgent intervention to ensure that high natural and cultural values are not destroyed while community consultation for these listings is underway.

Section 324JL – 324JQ of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 provides Minister Burke with emergency listing powers, if he is persuaded the areas are worthy of National Heritage status and are under significant and imminent threat.

“The mining boom is driving an outbreak of new mining proposals on Cape York Peninsula for coal, bauxite, kaolin and mineral sands,” said Northern Australia Campaigner Gavan McFadzean. “There are six new mines now proposed for Cape York Peninsula. Each requires a new port and combined would wipe out 45,000 hectares of forest and native grassland.”

“These mines will bring destructive land clearing, water extraction, pollution, dams, dredging, vast road networks and other industrial infrastructure to pristine and remote locations in Cape York Peninsula – destroying the very values for which the region is being assessed for World Heritage and National Heritage listing.”

Cape York Peninsula is internationally renowned for its extraordinary natural and cultural values, with a unique and intact mosaic of rainforest, savannah, wetlands, dune fields, wild rivers and coral reefs. The region is a hotspot for biodiversity, boasting half of Australia’s bird species, more than half of our butterfly species, a third of our mammal species and 20 per cent of our plant species. There are 264 plants and 40 vertebrates found only on Cape York Peninsula.

Because of these globally significant conservation values, the Bligh and Gillard Governments have been working with local communities to develop a World Heritage nomination and concurrent National Heritage listing for the region. But the spate of mining proposals seriously undermines the current consultation process and the future effectiveness of these conservation measures.

“It’s untenable for Minister Burke to pursue protection for Cape York while giving the green light to several destructive mining proposals,” Mr McFadzean said. “The Minister must act swiftly to place these four highly threatened areas on the emergency National Heritage list.”

The full letter to Minister Burke with details of each mining proposal and the relevant conservation values under threat is available upon request from the media.

Media Enquiries:
Gavan McFadzean: 0414 754 023
Alex Tibbitts - Media Advisor: 0416 420 168


Summary table of mining threats







Major National Heritage threats

Skardon River

Bauxite Hills

Cape Alumina




Initially up to 3 500 hectares of land cleared with more to come; port; dredging in Skardon River.

Skardon River

Skardon River

Gulf Alumina




Up to 4 000 hectares of land cleared; port; dredging in Skardon River.

Wenlock River

Pisolite Hills

Cape Alumina




About 6 500 hectares of land cleared; bauxite hydrology altered affecting unique springs; sucking water straight from Wenlock; dredging and port in Port Musgrave.

Bathurst Bay


Aust-Pac Capital




Port and dredging in pristine part of Great Barrier Reef; potential subsidence and hydrology issue from underground mine; facilitating further coal mining in the area; at least 300 hectares cleared.

South of Embley

South of Embley

Rio Tinto



Released August 2011

About 30 000 hectares of land cleared; dam on Norman Creek; sucking water directly from Ward River; impacts on new crab/shrimp species; new port including dredging.

South of Embley

Urquhart Point





Up to 600 hectares of sand dunes strip mined and cleared; potentially threatening turtle nesting areas.