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Big mining moves in on the Tarkine

Updated:

For many years, we have been working to protect the Tarkine from the logging industry’s chainsaws. The Tasmanian Forest Agreement provides hope for an end to this logging soon, but in the meantime a serious new threat has emerged.

The mining industry has its sights set on the earth beneath the Tarkine, and the forests, rivers, heathlands and wildlife of this region are once again under siege.

With metals prices soaring, the prospect of digging up the tin, iron and zinc beneath the Tarkine has moved from being a marginally profitable operation to being highly attractive to both mining multinationals and governments.

For two years, local activists have been fending off the growing list of mining companies laying claim to the Tarkine. Right now, there are 59 mineral exploration licences and at least ten proposals for Pilbara-style open-cut mines across this remote and pristine wilderness.

Venture Minerals: a giant tin mine

The next company to launch an assault on the Tarkine will be West Australian-based Venture Minerals. Plans currently before the Federal Environment Minister involve gouging a mine through the Mount Lindsay rainforest that would be 1.5 kilometres long and 200 metres deep.

This enormous pit would be surrounded by tailings dams, rock dumps and infrastructure, disturbing an area of more than 10 square kilometres – the equivalent of 420 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

Not satisfied with one mine in the Tarkine, Venture Minerals has also announced they’ll fast-track iron ore mines at Stanley River and Riley Creek. Iron ore mines are cheaper to establish than tin mines ($3 million versus $150 million) and Venture Minerals plans on having both of these mines operational by early 2013.

Current damage in ‘protected areas’

While these mines pose a massive future threat to the future of the Tarkine, the damage has already started. Right now, bulldozers are building new tracks and clearing drilling pads in remote wilderness areas, ripping up the forest floor and opening up avenues for the spread of weeds and the deadly Tasmanian Devil facial-tumour disease.

Shockingly, many of the proposed mines are slated for supposed ‘protected areas’ – areas like the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area that, according to the Government, has “significant natural and cultural values”. These areas are protected from logging and hunting, and there are restrictions around 4WD use, camping and bringing your dog – but miners get free reign?

The Tarkine needs formal, legislated protection as a national park or reserve. With your support, the Wilderness Society will be working hard to achieve just that. It’s up to all of us to ensure that future generations have the chance to marvel at the rainforests, tall-wet eucalypt forests and blackwood swamplands of this special region.

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