CQUniversity professor John Rolfe.
CQUniversity professor John Rolfe.

More focus on mining impacts

THE Federal Government's reassessment of a mine expansion application on environmental grounds is likely to be the first in a series of such moves, a mining expert says.

CQUniversity Professor John Rolfe said it was likely an increasing focus on cumulative impacts would occur at the approvals stage of future developments.

Late last week Environment Minister Tony Burke decided to reconsider Rio Tinto's Weipa expansion application based on "significant new information" about proposed shipping activities in the reef marine park.

The move has ramifications for the mining industry across Central Queensland.

"There has been a lot of talk and we're going to see more attention paid to cumulative impacts in the future, particularly environmental impacts," Prof Rolfe said.

"I expect that both state and national governments will increasingly place more requirements on proponents of major projects to address cumulative impacts."

He said approval processes were becoming more stringent and cumbersome, but it was vital they didn't make the process so slow that companies stopped developing.

"I'm all for governments being thorough ... (but) Queensland still needs a sign up that says we're open for business," Prof Rolfe said.

"Industry as a whole needs to know the issues that are on the table and that are to be considered."

He noted there were advantages in having issues around shipping discussed thoroughly.

"Given the recent concerns about pressures on the Great Barrier Reef and the development of new ports, it is better to address this now than in a couple of years."

However he said he was surprised by the minister's move to focus on a particular mining project, saying it seemed more appropriate to consider these issues as a part of approvals for new port developments.

"It would have been better to have identified these cumulative issues earlier in the process," he said.

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