Tuesday 19 October 2010

Wild Rivers Act strikes blow to bauxite mine. 'Deal with this nonsense' - Entsch

The development of a greenfield bauxite mine, aimed to produce up to 12 million tonnes of bauxite ore per year for export, is now likely to not proceed, following the Queensland State Government's

The Pisolite Hills project, backed by Cape Alumina, 50 km north-east of Weipa on the western Cape York Peninsula, would use open cut methods to extract the bauxite.

The declaration of the Wenlock River Basin as a "wild river" under the Queensland Government’s Wild Rivers Act, has rendered Cape Alumina’s Pisolite Hills bauxite mine and port project, unviable under forecast economic conditions unless the size of the buffer zones are reduced.

The Opposition has slammed the State Government for its decision to impose a 500 metre exclusion zone on the Wenlock River system which has resulted in the scrapping of a major economic opportunity for Cape York.

“Using the controversial Wild Rivers legislation Anna Bligh and the Queensland
State Government have stripped away the rights of traditional owners in the Cape in a decision that will cost the Mapoon community a shot at economic independence,” Senator Ian Macdonald says. “The Pisolite Hills bauxite mining proposal would have injected $1.2 billion into the Cape and resulted in new infrastructure, jobs and commercial opportunities for people on the Cape, especially those in Mapoon."

Senator Macdonald says the assessment that a 500 metre exclusion zone is needed doesn’t appear to have been based on science or experience, both of which suggest a much more reasonable 300 metre exclusion zone would have protected the river system and allowed for the bauxite project.

“The State government seems unwilling to negotiate with traditional owners and industry to promote environmentally responsible industries and economic growth on the Cape," Senator Macdonald said. "Instead Anna Bligh and the Labor Party seem intent on pandering to the Greens in an attempt to improve their own political stocks. The people living on Cape York deserve control over their land, Tony Abbott and the Coalition are determined to return this control to them by introducing a private members bill into the parliament by the end of the year. With the support of the traditional owners on Cape York I am confident that these laws can be overturned."

In the 8-page release, Cape Alumina’s Dr Paul Messenger says that there was simply no justification for the Minister’s decision or the imposition of arbitrary 500‐metre buffers near the Pisolite Hills project area.

“This decision completely ignores the well‐established precedent at the 50‐year‐old Weipa bauxite mining operations, on western Cape York, where bauxite mining has been carried out in places within 100 metres of substantial springs or wetlands without adverse environmental impacts,” Dr Messenger said. “The Minister has rejected a large body of robust scientific evidence that supports Cape Alumina’s position and has instead relied on the myths and fairytales spun by opponents of the project in pursuit of their own commercial and ideological agendas."

“The wild rivers legislation does not contribute to improving best practice environmental management – it simply locks land away from development in an entirely arbitrary manner and removes the rights of Aboriginal people to make decisions as to how their land could or should be developed for the benefit of future generations," Dr Messenger says. “The right to determine their future is being stripped away from Aboriginal people without their consent or proper consultation."

"The Minister did not identify the rightful owners of the land impacted by his decision and, when those Traditional Land Owners wrote to him in May, 2010 expressing their deep concern and lack of understanding about the wild rivers law, he ignored their concerns and pushed through his decision."

Glenn Walker from the Wilderness Society, and out-spoken critic of the Wild River's coverage on CairnsBlog, claims the back track by Cape Alumina as one of the "biggest conservation victories in Australia's history." "It was a highly destructive proposal in one of Australia's most beautiful areas," he told the Cairns Post.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch told CairnsBlog the decision was a lost opportunity.

"It highlights a need for us to deal with this nonsense," Warren Entsch said. "It's as simple as that. Cape York can't afford to lose those sort of opportunities. Communities like Mapoon can't afford to lose these opportunities. Quite frankly I don't think Cairns or our region can afford it, given the situation we're in in the moment."

Entsch says it has nothing to do with the environment.

"There are more than enough opportunities to deal with the environment, with mechanisms there to make sure the integrity of the environment is maintained. It's purely an agenda pushed by the Wilderness Society," Warren Entsch said.


Matt CYP said...

In the long run, we will all be glad that the Wild Rivers law has stopped this massive mine:

- the Wenlock River does not exist in isolation from its catchment, and mining even 500 metres away would be very destructive;

- there is no shortage of bauxite, it is a common and low-value ore already being mined at Weipa;

- the claim that Aboriginal employment will suffer is a furphy; any Aboriginal person who is willing and capable of taking on a mining job would be welcomed with open arms by existing employers in the area;

- to overcome the problems of the Peninsula Aboriginal communities, they have to address the underlying social issues which leave people uneducated and disengaged from the real economy;

- sacrificing the Wenlock would only result in a massive mine with the vast majority of its workers coming in from elsewhere while the traditional owners sit on the sidelines.

Syd Walker said...

Warren's Entsch's comment is sad. Perhaps he thinks Ok Tedi is a great mine too?

Still no reply from Mr Entsch to my letter about FNQ and the NBN - something I suspect a lot of people in this community actually want (ideally within their lifetimes!).

Yet it's not too hard for him to make a crass, divisive comment about a complex environmental / resource development issue.

FNQ deserves better.