McArthur River mine expansion rejected

November 17, 1993

DARWIN — The proposed expansion of the McArthur River lead and zinc mine near Borroloola has been rejected by the NT government. Environment minister Marion Scrymgour announced on February 23 that the environmental impact statement submitted by the mine owner, Xstrata, was rejected on scientific grounds.

Xstrata claims that it needs to convert the operation to an open-cut mine for it to be viable. The company proposed to redirect the flow of the McArthur River by 5.5 kilometres and to construct a huge open pit. The open-cut operation was expected to create enough tailings and waste material to cover 255 hectares, with the potential to leach acid and heavy metals into surrounding soil and groundwater.

Located in the middle of a major flood-plain, the McArthur River has important riparian vegetation and is the home of endangered species. Environmentalists, traditional owners and locals opposed the expansion. The Yanyuwa traditional owners are also concerned about the downstream impacts of existing and proposed mining on food sources, and the local dugong and turtle populations.

Environment Centre of the NT campaigner Gary Scott told Green Left Weekly that the outcome was a big win for the environment. Xstrata's proposal was "lost on the issues that count — lack of science, lack of sustainability and lack of consultation", he said.

Jon Lamb

From Green Left Weekly, March 1, 2006.
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