A group of Aboriginal people has had a legal victory against moves to expand a multi-million dollar zinc mine in the Northern Territory.
In the Territory Supreme Court today, Justice David Angel found that the approval of the expansion of the McArthur River mine was invalid because Mines Minister Chris Natt did not follow the proper process.
In October last year, Mr Natt approved company Xstrata’s plan to turn the McArthur River mine, near Borroloola, into an open cut mine.
The expansion project involves the diversion of the McArthur River.
Lawyers for the traditional Aboriginal owners of the mine area argued that in the approval process the Territory Government failed to follow proper procedures under the Mines Management Act or take environmental concerns into consideration.
Outside court, the NT Environment Centre’s Charles Roche said the decision protects the McArthur River.
“The decision for [the mine] means they have to stop work immediately, which means they can’t go ahead with digging the canal at this point in time,” he said.
“It’s basically stop work until this matter’s settled.”
Xstrata has the option of appealing against the ruling or to undertake the approval process again.
The NT’S Attorney-General says the Government is still digesting the complex decision.
But Syd Stirling admits there may have been a problem with the approval process.
“But it may be that Government’s not followed its processes properly, but I’m probably reluctant to say more than that until we get a full brief and I get a full understanding,” he said.
“I would imagine the Minister for Mining will be getting the same brief and making a comment later.”