Environmentalist outrage as Rio Tinto gets mine go-ahead

A bauxite processing facility is pictured in western Africa, on October 23, 2008
This file illustration photo shows a bauxite processing facility in western Africa, pictured on October 23, 2008. Australia on Wednesday gave Rio Tinto the go-ahead for a controversial $1.3 bln bauxite mine project in northeastern Australia, in a decision environmentalists blasted as "vandalism on a grand scale".

Australia on Wednesday gave Rio Tinto the go-ahead for a controversial Aus$1.3 billion (US$1.3 billion) bauxite mine project in a decision environmentalists blasted as "vandalism on a grand scale".

After more than a year of delays, Environment Minister Tony Burke approved Rio Tinto Alcan's South of Embley bauxite mine and port development in western Cape York, a wilderness area in northeastern Australia.

Burke slapped 76 conditions on the project, including on shipping movements through the and steps to protect endangered species such as turtles, dugongs and dolphins.

"My decision comes after a rigorous , and the conditions I have placed on the project will ensure that the region is protected," he said.

The project includes building a power station, processing plant, warehouses and workshops, in addition to barge, ferry and ship-loading facilities to extend the life of an existing bauxite mine in the area for a further 40 years.

"Respect for the environment is central to the way we operate, and we will ensure all the conditions for the construction and operation of the project are met," said Pat Fiore, chief executive of bauxite at Rio Tinto Alcan, an arm of Rio Tinto.

But environmentalists said Burke had approved the single biggest land clearing in Cape York's history, claiming it would wipe out 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of a landscape identified as being of World Heritage standard.

They also said it would mean hundreds more ships crossing the Great Barrier Reef.

"This mine will result in environmental vandalism on a grand scale," said Tim Seelig, Queensland campaign manager for the Wilderness Society.

The approval came just days after the United Nations warned that the Great Barrier Reef's world heritage status could be downgraded in 2014 due to rampant and water quality issues.

"Management plans and monitoring programmes don't change the fact that Labor is letting Cape York be strip mined and allowing even more massive ships to crash through the Great Barrier Reef," said Australian Greens environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters.

Australia is riding an unprecedented wave of resources investment due to booming demand from Asia, with hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of resource projects in the pipeline.

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© 2013 AFP

Citation: Environmentalist outrage as Rio Tinto gets mine go-ahead (2013, May 15) retrieved 17 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-05-environmentalist-outrage-rio-tinto-go-ahead.html
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May 15, 2013
And when the landscape gets polluted the fine will be pitifully small. The profit from this atrocity would not even notice the charge. You can bet someone has major holdings in this project.

May 16, 2013
FYI, open Google Earth and fly to 12°35'22.97"S 141°50'26.35"E

Zoom in to get the full extent of the existing mine.

Now use the ruler to measure the extent of the developed mine. It is under 400 sq miles, most of it untouched by development.

Now zoom out and imaging another 100 sq mile area adjacent to the existing mine.

Finally, zoom out far enough to view the entire York Peninsula.

Get the picture?

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