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20 February 2009
PG / 216
Environment Minister Peter Garrett has today made a fresh decision on the McArthur River mine expansion, approving the project but putting in place new stringent monitoring requirements to protect the environment.
Mr Garrett was required to make a new decision on the proposal after the Federal Court ruled late last year that former environment Minister Ian Campbell's decision was invalid as he had failed to follow correct process.
"As a consequence of Mr Campbell's failure to follow the required processes under national environment law, I've been required to revisit the decision on the expansion of the open pit to the east of the existing McArthur River Mine pit," Mr Garrett said.
"My decision making relates primarily to ensuring that the environmental impacts of the mine are acceptable for matters of national environmental significance listed under the federal environment legislation.
"In particular, my approval decision and the conditions I have imposed relate to the project's likely impact on the freshwater sawfish and listed migratory birds.
"I have strengthened the original conditions by requiring McArthur River Mining to prepare a comprehensive monitoring plan for marine sediment, mine site sediment, depositional dust, seawater, natural surface water and groundwater.
"In making this decision, I have thoroughly considered all the information originally provided to the former minister on this proposal, as well as other relevant information, including submissions made by McArthur River Mining, traditional owners and my Commonwealth colleagues.
"In reaching my decision I also took into account the financial and employment benefits of the mine expansion for the region, but I have strongly encouraged MRM to pursue a more active engagement with local stakeholders including traditional owners.
"It is clear that this area has significant cultural value to the Aboriginal people who rely on the river for fishing and other traditional practices and while I cannot require it as a condition of approval, I have strongly urged MRM to communicate the outcomes of environmental monitoring and other reports with the local community.
"This includes strongly encouraging them to make public their Mining Management Plan and other key documents to ensure greater transparency of their operations and environmental impact for the local community and stakeholders."