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The Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Christmas Island mining extension rejected

Media release
16 July 2010

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Environment Protection Minister, Peter Garrett, today said a proposal to expand phosphate mining on Christmas Island cannot proceed as it would have unacceptable impacts on nationally listed threatened species, migratory species and Commonwealth land.

Minister Garrett's decision follows a similar refusal by the former environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, of the Phosphate Resources Limited proposal in 2007 which was overturned by the Federal Court due to administrative failings. Mr Garrett was required to make a fresh decision.

"After a thorough and rigorous assessment of all the information before me, I have come to the conclusion that this proposal cannot go ahead without unacceptable impacts on the island's biodiversity," Mr Garrett said.

"This is an island with an ecology under significant threat and which is already suffering as a result of a range of threatening processes, including land clearing, invasive fauna and weed invasion.

"In order to extend its mining operations, the company was proposing to clear 256.3 hectares of fragile rainforest which would lead to direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the island's biodiversity.

"Not only would the proposed clearing further fragment rainforest habitat, but its effects would extend well beyond the immediate area of clearing and would have a serious impact on a number of island species.

"It's likely the clearing would lead to the further decline of the island's red crabs which play a key role in maintaining the island's rainforest habitat. It would also result in significant loss of habitat for the Christmas Island goshawk and Christmas Island hawk-owl, as well as impact on the threatened Abbott's booby and Christmas Island frigatebird.

"I have also determined there would be little likelihood of successfully rehabilitating the proposed mined areas to a pre-mined state, and so would undermine the significant work that is currently being carried out by Parks Australia to address the various threats to biodiversity in this unique and fragile ecosystem.

"In making my decision, I'm required also to balance environmental, economic and social impacts.

"I have determined that the likely economic and social benefits of expanding the mining simply do not outweigh the significant impacts of these activities on the environment, threatened species and their habitat.

"Given that the company are free to continue mining under their existing lease until 2019, and that only months ago the company received approval to mine significant additional areas of existing leases, I believe there will be sufficient time to transition away from a mining economy toward a more sustainable future for the Island."

Commonwealth of Australia