Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Strict conditions for South of Embley bauxite mining project

15 May 2013

Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, today approved Rio Tinto Alcan's South of Embley bauxite mine and port development project in western Cape York under national environmental law subject to 76 strict conditions.

Mr Burke said with the conditions in place he is satisfied that the project can go ahead without unacceptable impacts on the environment.

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

"My decision has taken into account public comments, the advice of my department and independent advice from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority."

The original referral decision was revoked in March 2012 to assess previously unidentified shipping movements through the Great Barrier Reef.

"The inclusion of the shipping impacts on the Great Barrier Reef in the revised referral has meant that Rio Tinto Alcan provided a fundamentally more comprehensive environmental impact statement which addressed all the key environmental impacts on matters of national environmental significance," Mr Burke said.

"The conditions I have imposed today will ensure that shipping activity arising from this project does not negatively impact the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef, and meets the highest international standards in its planning, regulation, assessment and operation.

"The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's greatest environmental treasures, I need to be absolutely confident that it will be protected for future generations."

Potential impacts to endangered species including turtles, dugongs and dolphins will be managed through a collection of key measures.

For example, Rio Tinto will support a research program being conducted by the Australian Bat Society for microbats, including the critically endangered bare-rumped sheathtail bat.

Rio Tinto, through its subsidiary RTA Weipa Pty Ltd, is required to work to an agreed marine and shipping management plan, temporary barge plan, dredging management plans and a terrestrial management plan to ensure the safety of species and flora in the region.

These plans are critical to ensuring the health of the surrounding environment and minimise any adverse effects from dredging.

The company is also required to implement a strategy over the life of the project approval to reduce feral pig predation on listed turtle species nests.

"In addition, my conditions require funding of up to $1.2 million for an Inshore Dolphin Offset Strategy to inform our knowledge of the listed migratory species, the Australian snubfin dolphin and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in the Western Cape York region," Mr Burke said.

The project is located south of the Embley River, approximately 40 kilometres south of Weipa, on the western side of Cape York, Queensland.

For more information, go to: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=5642.