By Joel Scanlon
A new species of tiny freshwater crab may cause trouble at a Rio Tinto site. The Wilderness Society is asking the federal Environment Minister to halt a $900 million mining exploration program being undertaken by Rio Tinto in Cape York after the discovery of the crab.
Glenn Walker of the Wilderness Society said that as nearly 30,000 hectares of bush would be cleared and a river destroyed if the mine is approved the crab would be threatened. He added that incredibly Rio Tinto still plans to mine in this area and threaten this new species, so greedy are they to make an extra buck.
Mr Walker added that the crab hasn't even yet been assessed for protection under federal environment laws, which would likely list the species as endangered and potentially stall approval of the mine. The conservationists have asked Tony Burke the federal Environment Minister to stop the project.
The find has been referred to Peter Davie, Queensland Museum senior curator of crustacea. Mr Davie said that there was a bit of detective work to go but many are restricted to single catchments. They may well be vulnerable to climate change and all sorts of things. He added that they had very little information for 20 species of freshwater crabs but they were all potentially endangered or vulnerable.
In response Rio Tinto Alcan spokesman said that they have had the best experts out there studying the area and they were pleased to have been able to make a contribution to understanding the ecology of the cape. He added that they were being quite open about this. It was our people that turned this [crab] up. He said that it was now up to the State and Federal governments to assess the findings.