Updated: March 15, 2012
Burke’s Rio Tinto Reef call a welcome first step
The Wilderness Society (Qld) Inc.
16 March 2012
The Wilderness Society today welcomed the decision by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to force Rio Tinto to expand the EIS for their huge South of Embley bauxite mine on Cape York to include the impacts of increased shipping in the Great Barrier Reef. However the society said this was just one step in what is needed to protect the Reef and Cape York from the onslaught of mining and industrial development.
“Minister Burke should now place a moratorium on all new mining project approvals in Cape York until the completion of UNESCO’s Strategic Assessment of the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage Assessment of Cape York,” said Gavan McFadzean, Northern Australia Campaigner for The Wilderness Society.
“Minister Burke has made the right call to send Rio Tinto back to the drawing board with their EIS.
It’s clear that Rio’s plans to increase bauxite shipping through the Great Barrier Reef add a further significant risk to a reef under siege from mining and industrial development.”
Minister Burke’s decision is in response to a formal complaint by The Wilderness Society that Rio Tinto had failed to highlight the shipping risks to the Great Barrier Reef in their EIS, and that the Federal Government had also failed to ensure impacts of the shipping were formally assessed under the EPBC Act (federal environment laws).
“Rio Tinto’s huge new bauxite mine is a major environmental threat. On top of the increased shipping through the Great Barrier Reef, the mine will wipe out about 30 000 hectares of forest, dam the Norman Creek, threaten newly found species of crab and shrimp, and dredge about 9 million cubic metres of the marine environment for a new port.
Minister Burke’s decision follows a recent inspection by the UN’s environment arm UNESCO, which is undertaking a Strategic Assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in the face of unprecedented industrial expansion on the coastline.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world – it shouldn’t be turned into highway for coal, gas and bauxite or be used as a dumping ground for dangerous dredge spoil. The UNESCO mission was a wake-up call to state and federal governments to enforce stronger measures to protect the Reef.
In February The Wilderness Society lodged a request for an emergency heritage listing for parts of Cape York Peninsula due to escalating mining threats. This includes the new Wongai coal mine proposal at Bathurst Heads. The Wilderness Society said Minister Burke’s next step in protecting the Great Barrier Reef should be to accept the emergency heritage listing request for key areas of Cape York.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Qld Inc - Brisbane
67 Boundary Street (upstairs)
West End, QLD, 4101
Phone: 07 3846 1420