Tasmania Government to Resolve Dilemma Between Timber Industry, Green Groups Over Temperate Rainforest

By @vitthernandez on

The failure by the timber industry and environmental groups to reach an agreement on Monday would result in the Tasmanian government stepping in to resolve the impasse. The battle over the largest temperate rainforest in the region has extended to mining in the Tarkine wilderness.

The Tarkine is the home of the endangered Tasmanian devil, farms, communities and minerals such as magnetite covering more than 400,000 hectares of temperate rainforest, rivers and grass plains.

Mining firms have been operating in the area for more than 100 years. Among them is Grange Resources which has been operating open-cut mines at the Savage River. Since part of its mining lease includes fixing some of the environmental problems it inherited, Grange believes mining can co-exist with environmentalism.

Besides Grange, the federal government has granted two new mining leases and there are three more pending applications for open-cut mines, plus expansion of existing mines.

Among those pushing for reinstatement of the Tarkine in the National Heritage Listing, which had lapsed in 2010, is Greens leader Christine Milne who has been lobbying with Environment Minister Tony Burke.

Mr Burke said individual assessments would be done on the applications, but their cumulative impact would be considered since the Tarkine is considered a diverse region. He added that he would not be surprised if there would be a blanket listing across the whole area.

"They are a number of kilometers from each other, they're a different ecological character between them, and therefore the environment issues that you take into account are different from place to place," Mr Burke told ABC.

Green groups which oppose the new applications and expansion cited the environmental degradation caused by mines such as the old Aberfoyle tin mine which caused acidification of the tailings and leeching out of iron ore particulates from the rock in the tailing dams.

Scott Jordan of the Tarkine National Coalition told ABC that the effect of the orange sludge that has polluted at least six kilometers of White River. Mr Jordan warned that if the government approves new mining leases in the area, green groups will launch another campaign similar to the Franklin River campaign which led to the scrapping of the Franklin River dam project in 1983.

However, Australian Workers' Union National Secretary Paul Howes said the federal government should not listen only to green groups but also to people who live and work and raised families in the region for generations.