Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the party strongly opposed new open-cut mines in the area, which is under
consideration for World Heritage listing, but would accept plans to revive some moth-balled mines.
“The whole line that is being pushed against us in Tasmania is that we want to shut down the mining industry, which is
absolute rubbish,” he said.
“Mining is the biggest contributor to gross state product; no one is talking about shutting it down.”
The Greens’ qualified support for mining in the wilderness area on Tasmania’s west coast comes as the political battle
has intensified in recent weeks.
The state Liberal Party will host a forum in Burnie on Monday which Opposition Leader Will Hodgman says will
“combat the mistruths” about mining in the “so-called” Tarkine. The Australian Workers Union and the Labor party
have strongly backed new mines to offset job losses in other Tasmanian industries such as forestry.
In support of the Greens’ position Senator Whish-Wilson highlighted Bright Phase Resources’ proposal to reopen the
Cleveland tin mine, Luina, which closed in the 1980s.
Tailings at the site are leaching acid and other contaminants into the Whyte River. The mine’s redevelopment, spurred
by rising tin prices, could improve the environment.
“By cleaning up the tailings, we are going to get a pretty positive result. It costs the taxpayer nothing to remediate the
area and creates jobs,” he said, adding that the approach was consistent with World Heritage guidelines.
“It satisfies our values as conservationists. Also this has the ability to create wealth and jobs.”
Senator Whish-Wilson said the existing mine infrastructure, such as roads, meant the proposal was less damaging
than some proposed mines where exploration rigs had been helicoptered into the forest.
He acknowledged that even the qualified support was potentially difficult for the Greens.
“It is a very sensitive issue for us. It is not an easy thing for the Greens to support any mining proposals in a World
Heritage Area,” he said.
Senator Whish-Wilson said it was important to look for common ground over the controversial issue.
“Tasmania has been so racked by conflict I’m sick of it, everyone is so sick of it. We support existing mining on the
west coast,” he said.
“What we don’t want to see is 58 exploration licences in a World Heritage area.”
Tarkine National Coalition chairman Scott Jordan said his organisation supported the Greens’ position and he had
given Senator Whish-Wilson a tour of the site.
He said the Cleveland mine could generate 200 jobs that would last a decade, which was comparable to the highly
controversial Venture Minerals strip mining proposal.
A smaller proposal at Burns Peak would generate about 20 jobs over two years and also potentially solve substantial
environmental issues at another old mine.
Tasmanian Minerals Council executive director Terry Long said the Green’s policy would not make a material
difference to the industry’s prospects in the region.
“It is a position they have taken so they can say publicly that they don’t oppose mining in the area,” he said.
Mr Long said that was likely a response to a “ground swell” of community anger over the Greens’ opposition to mining.
Mr Hodgman said in a statement this week that 44 per cent of Tasmania was already “locked up”.
A decision is expected in the coming months from the federal government on a national heritage listing, which is a
precursor to the world listing.
The Australian Financial Review