The Wilderness Society has asked Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to use emergency powers to protect four areas in Cape York, Australia that are currently threatened by mining proposals. The appeal was made in a letter by Gavan McFadzean last week.
The Wilderness Society campaigner said that the intervention of the Environment Minister was urgently required to ensure that the natural and cultural values of the areas were not destroyed while the public consultation process was under way.
The areas which he identified in the letter include Rio Tinto’s South of Embley project near Weipa, Aust-Pac Capital’s Wongai Coal Mine project north of Cooktown, and Cape Alumina’s Bauxite Hills project in the Skardon river basin and again Cape Alumina’s Pisolite Hills project in the Wenlock river basin.
Mc Fadzean’s letter stated that these mines would bring destructive land clearing, water extraction, pollution, dams, dredging, vast road networks and other industrial infrastructure to pristine and remote locations in Cape York Peninsula, destroying the very values for which the region was being assessed for World Heritage and National Heritage listing.
Mr Burke responded to the letter by saying that emergency heritage listings were extremely rare. He added that irrespective of heritage listing, the normal rules such as protection of endangered species still applied to all the mining projects in the region.
Rio Tinto offered a statement from a spokesperson saying that respect for the environment was central to the company's approach on Cape York, and it had consulted widely on its South of Embley expansion. If the emergency listing does come through six mines in the region will be affected.