Pulp mill's future looking shaky

September 6, 2008

On August 28, Gunns Limited announced to the Australian Securities Exchange that there is a possibility the controversial Tamar Valley pulp mill may not proceed.

In the same announcement, Gunns said that it would not be able to meet the construction deadline of November 30, due to problems securing finance.

Gunns' admission came after a 10,000-strong anti-pulp mill rally organised by Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill on August 22 in Launceston.

Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett said the pulp mill will "live or die" by November 30, according to the August 29 Australian. Bartlett has foreshadowed that the November 30 deadline would not be extended, although the 20-year wood supply agreement may be extended by state-owned Forestry Tasmania, according to the August 30 Australian.

Also adding to uncertainty about the mill's future is the as-yet incomplete federal environmental approval process, the deadline for which is October 4.

Federal environment minister Peter Garrett has returned nine of the 16 modules submitted by Gunns already, assessed as insufficient. However, Garrett has said he will consider extending the October 4 deadline.

In the August 28 statement, Gunns CEO John Gay announced he would step down next year. Gay has also been forced to concede that the mill may have to source 60% plantation timber to secure funding from potential European backers, as opposed to the 80% native timber initially proposed.

On September 6, a protest took place outside Launceston's Country Club Casino. The protest targeted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was addressing the ALP state conference, demanding that his government does not extend the October 4 deadline for Gunns to meet the environmental criteria.

Although the pulp mill's future looks shaky, the movement is maintaining the pressure, because without the mass campaign the mill would have been a lot more certain than it is today.

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