Wednesday, 19 December 2012 09:31
Green groups have vowed to fight a decision to allow a controversial open-cut mine to be built in Tasmania's Tarkine wilderness.
After two years of assessment, Environment Minister Tony Burke on Tuesday gave the final tick of approval to Shree Minerals to mine for iron ore in north-west Tasmania, with strict conditions.
The government argues the Nelson Bay River mine will bring jobs and economic growth to the region, and the decision was welcomed by the some local politicians and the Australian Workers Union.
But conservationists warn the mine will be built in Australia's largest tract of temperate rainforest, a wilderness area recommended for heritage status and home to the endangered Tasmanian devil.
"It's a massive betrayal of the Tarkine," campaign co-ordinator of the Tarkine National Coalition Scott Jordan told reporters.
"He could have been the minister that saved the Tarkine, or he could have been the minister that gave the devil a fighting chance."
Mr Burke said he was satisfied the 29 approval conditions meant the mine would be strictly built and run under national environment laws.
Shree would have to ensure there were no "unacceptable impacts" on listed threatened species and their habitats by meeting a number of requirements.
Mine vehicles would have to follow speed limits and drive at daytime to avoid killing threatened species, and staff would be required to undergo environmental awareness training.
They must report all deaths of threatened species from road kill and post these numbers on their website, paying extra compensation if more are killed than anticipated.
The Australian Greens said it was "laughable" the prevention measures would have any impact when the project would see a 1km long and 225m deep mine cut into the earth.
Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the hematite and magnetite project also threatened the region's long-term economic activity like tourism.
But the AWU called it a victory for people power and proof a balance could be struck between conservation and development in the Tarkine.
Labor MP Sid Sidebottom, whose electorate of Braddon encompasses the Tarkine region, said the mine was expected to create up to 125 new jobs and contribute much to the region's economy.
Tasmania's north-west had important environmental values that needed to be protected, but this can be done in conjunction with sustainable economic development, he added.
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