Satellite technology will be used to track koalas as part of a ground-breaking new research program between The University of Queensland and major mining company Rio Tinto Coal Australia (RTCA). Koalas at the Blair Athol mine site near Clermont will be fitted with special satellite tracking collars in the latest stage of a long-term partnership between the two organisations, launched by Environment Minister John Mickel this morning (July 29, 2004).
The partnership, known as Koala Venture, has delivered vital knowledge of koala habitat and diet which is then incorporated into the mine’s operations and rehabilitation programs.
“Koala Venture has been the longest running koala study in Australia and has delivered research findings promoting a broader understanding of koala ecology valuable to the conservation of this national icon,” University of Queensland Vice Chancellor Professor John Hay AC said.
“In the next phase of our partnership we will employ this new technology and extend the horizons in which we are operating to provide data on the animals twenty-four hours a day.
“In that way, we aim to not only gain more information on the population under investigation, but also provide a methodology which could be employed across the country.”
The new partnership takes Rio Tinto Coal Australia’s commitment to protecting the koala to almost $1.5 million.
“We have a commitment to sustainable land use which sits at the forefront of our business,” RTCA Managing Director Dr Grant Thorne said.
“Through Koala Venture, RTCA not only protects the Clermont population, but demonstrates the value we place on environmental performance for all of our mining operations.”
Blair Athol Mine General Manager Hennie Du Plooy said the acquisition of such data was critical to improved environmental outcomes for the mine’s operation, both now and into the future.
“As well as being Australia’s largest export coal mine, we are proud to be raising the bar on managing mine-site fauna with this partnership,” Mr Du Plooy said.
In launching the partnership Environment Minister, John Mickel, congratulated Rio Tinto and the University of Queensland on their ongoing commitment to koala conservation.
“This partnership complements the work the Environmental Protection Agency is undertaking to protect and conserve koala colonies across Queensland,” Mr Mickel said.
“It shows that good environmental management is underpinned by science. It is not about creating public relations opportunities.
“Rio Tinto and the University of Queensland are also showing what can be achieved when the green dollar is invested wisely. I wish the venture continued success.”