The Australian Federal Government has temporarily ceased plans to prolong the life of a majority Chinese state-owned mine in Tasmania following public outcry over its proposal to decimate a section of rainforest.
The plan to extend the shelf life of Minerals and Metals Group’s (MMG) 85-year-old Rosebery Mine for another 40 years was put on hold after the Department of Environment found the project required assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act before it could proceed.
The zinc, copper, lead, and gold mine—and the 500 workers it sustained—required new space to store its waste, and intended to construct a 140-hectare dam to hold the mine’s tailings. The plan would see a total of 285 hectares of wilderness, including parts of the Tarkine rainforest, cleared in the process.
MMG, which is more than two-thirds owned by China Minmetals, encountered resistance from environmental protection group Bob Brown Foundation (BBF), whose activists faced close to 70 arrests after protesting onsite the mine for close to two months—including attaching themselves to machines.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley met with the environmental protection group’s leader, retired Greens Leader Bob Brown, and MMG in a visit to the region in early July prior to making the decision.
MMG welcomed the decision for an environmental impact assessment, saying that it intended to comply to the greatest extent with the stringent state and federal regulations.
“Our priority is to find the safest and most balanced solution that secures the future of the 85 year-old Rosebery mine and the 500 people and their families that it supports,” MMG said in a media release.
The BBF were relieved with the outcome, but said that Ley should have outright banned MMG from clearing the area given alternative locations available nearby.
“MMG’s heavy machinery should never have been allowed into such a magnificent rainforest and wildlife area,” an BBF spokesperson said in a media statement.
“The Minister should have cleared the air properly and made a definitive decision that this tailings dam does not belong in the rainforests of takayna / Tarkine when there are several options for MMG nearer the mine and outside this priceless area,”
However, Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein expressed dismay towards the group’s actions for not considering the impact the protests had on workers’ livelihoods.
“It simply beggars belief that the Greens are ignoring the normal planning and approvals process and instead callously calling for 500 jobs in the North West to be thrown on the scrapheap,” Gutwein said in a media release.
Gutwein said that the protestors had demanded workers withdraw their machines from the area, despite having approval to continue operating on site for the duration of the assessment.
“Rosalie Woodruff should apologise and let the process take its course—or if she doesn’t, she should drive up to Rosebery and tell these workers to their face why she wants to put their families in the unemployment queue.”