By JR on Saturday, March 17, 2012
RIO Tinto's $4 billion plan to almost double shipping of bauxite through the inner Great Barrier Reef in two years has been thrown into disarray, threatening 3000 jobs in Gladstone.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said new evidence had come to light about the proposed shipping by the mining giant from its bauxite operation near Weipa to Gladstone, in a ruling likely to delay the project for a year.
Rio Tinto Alcan president Pat Fiore yesterday warned the 11th-hour decision to expand the environmental review was a threat to the entire resource sector.
Rio has demanded an urgent meeting with Mr Burke ahead of a joint state and federal strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and the findings of a UNESCO delegation.
"Rio Tinto is deeply concerned that the Federal Government has taken such a profound decision based on unsustained claims in a two-page submission by the Wilderness Society," Mr Fiore said.
He said they had been shipping bauxite on that inner reef route for 40 years without damage.
The South of Embley project will produce up to 50 million tonnes of bauxite a year by 2015 in a $1.4 billion expansion of existing site reserves between Weipa and Aurukun on western Cape York.
The plan is for it to feed the $2.5 billion Yarwun refinery at Gladstone due to be commissioned by the end of this year.
Rio last year loaded 176 ships with bauxite in Weipa headed for Gladstone with that number forecast to rise to 270 ships in the next two years alone.
Green groups claim the total shipping numbers transiting through the reef are likely to increase five-fold under the state's mining boom.