The Northern Territory Opposition says thousands of workers at the McArthur River mine are owed an explanation from the Government as to why their jobs are now in jeopardy.
In October last year, Territory Mines Minister Chris Natt approved Xstrata’s plan to turn the McArthur River Mine, near Borroloola, into an open cut mine. But a group of traditional owners has successfully argued that approval of the mine expansion failed to follow proper procedures under the Mines Management Act.
Opposition spokeswoman Fay Miller says it is inexcusable for the Government to put so many livelihoods at risk. “The unfortunate thing is that the expansion work at the mine now has to cease operation,” she said. “We must realise that it’s the third biggest zinc producer in the world and it really is going to make a huge difference to the world markets of zinc. Ms Miller says the expansion of uranium mining is just around the corner and the decision sends an alarming message to the rest of the world.
“The Government needs to clarify this, the Minister for Mines certainly needs to get some clarification on what administrative error was made here to ascertain that this never happens again,” she said.
Mr Natt says his reading of the decision is that mining will not be interrupted. “The processes are all there, the strict environmental processes that go through, they’re all undertaken, so again, it’s been a technical issue,” he said. “About my decision, we’re working through those to organise a response and we’ll examine the judgement before we make any further comment.”