McArthur River mine court ruling sidestepped

The Northern Territory Government is ramming through legislation to override a court decision preventing a controversial mine expansion from going ahead.

Traditional owners from the Borroloola region on the Gulf of Carpentaria had successfully challenged Xstrata’s plans to transform the mine from an underground to open-cut mine.

Chief Minister Clare Martin says the machines at the McArthur River Mine will fire up again tomorrow, as soon as the urgent amendment is passed.

Work on the $110 million expansion ceased on Monday when the Supreme Court ruled that the Territory Government’s approval process was flawed.

Ms Martin has defended ignoring written advice from the mine that the approval process the Government followed would leave it open to a legal challenge.

She is convinced the Government did the right thing.

“The legal advice I’ve got is that we could appeal this but it will take months,” she said.

Ms Martin says the Government will change the original legislation that governs the mine to allow it to have an open-cut operation.

Traditional owners not told

The Government had not told traditional owners that it would be rushing through the legislation.

But Ms Martin says they know that the Government wants the expansion to go ahead.

“I think the TOs [traditional owners] understood the decision had been made,” she said.

“This is a technicality and the most direct way to act is a quick one, to say that the decision is one we’re maintaining.

“So we’re doing this with the greatest respect for everyone involved.”

Mines Minister Chris Natt is also defending the way the Government has handled the case.

“The processes we work through are very, very stringent and they were controlled and very, very thorough,” he said.

“It’s just one small word – the word ‘underground’ has provided a situation where we’ve got to amend the situation.”

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