Tarkine mine re-approved in devil territory

By AAP with Amy Middleton 31 July 2013
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Re-approval for iron ore mine in Tasmania is ‘a decision for extinction’ says environmentalists, who plan to appeal it.

A CONTROVERSIAL NEW MINE proposed for the Tarkine region in Tasmania has been given federal approval again, despite concerns it will threaten one of the country’s strongest remaining Tasmanian devil populations.

Environment Minister Mark Butler on Wednesday granted Shree Minerals Limited approval to proceed with the iron ore mine, which will affect an area of 152ha at Nelson Bay River, in north-western Tasmania.

The mine’s development was halted by a federal court ruling in May, which found the mine to be unlawful due to its potential impact on Tasmanian devils. The Tarkine region is home to one of the last Tasmanian devil populations to remain free of devil facial tumour disease, which has wiped out around 80 per cent of the iconic species.

Conditions of the Tarkine mine decision

The government’s approval of the mine is subject to 30 conditions that aim to lessen the environmental impact of the project. The conditions stipulate that Shree make contributions to organisations that protect flora and fauna in the area, including a donation of $350,000 to maintain an insurance population of devils in response to the deadly facial tumour disease epidemic.

The minister says strict traffic conditions will lessen the impact of road-related deaths among the devil population. Additionally, Shree must contribute $48,000 to devil rehabilitation programs for every devil death caused by the company above two per year.

Similar penalties apply for deaths of spot-tailed quoll and wedge-tailed eagles. The conditions also stipulate that Shree contribute $400,000 to orchid research, in response to concerns about the mine’s impact on threatened orchid species in the region.

Iron ore mine a ‘decision for extinction’

Scott Jordan, campaign co-ordinator for the Save the Tarkine conservation group, says the mine is just as unlawful as it was back in May when the decision was contested.

“This mine is likely to introduce devil facial tumour disease into the last stronghold of disease-free Tasmanian devils, so this is a decision for extinction,” Scott told  Australian Geographic.

Scott says transfer of the devil facial tumour disease occurs when devils fight over carcases, instances of which will increase due to traffic-related roadkill.

“The roadkill of the devils alone is a significant problem but it’s the other species that provide a food source that then become the vector from which the disease enters the area,” he says.

Scott believes the imposed conditions will not protect the population from significant negative impact. “The priority should be protecting these things in the wild, not allowing companies to find a way to pay for them.”

Scott says Save the Tarkine are preparing to appear in court once more. “We are currently having a legal team look at this new approval but on the face of it, it appears to have all the same legal problems as the previous one. On that basis, we suspect we’ll be lodging a new application in the federal court.”