Law change digs out mine

THE NT Government changed the law yesterday to overrule a decision by the Supreme Court that jeopardised the future of the McArthur River Mine.
Minister for Mines Chris Natt introduced an amendment to the McArthur River Project Agreement Ratification Act into Parliament that he hopes will ensure the future of the world’s biggest zinc mine.

The government was embarrassed earlier in the week after Supreme Court judge David Angel ruled the government did not follow correct procedures when approving the McArthur River Mine expansion last year.

Mr Natt stuck to his guns yesterday that the government’s advice prior to approving the mine expansion was legally sound.

“The government went through very stringent processes in granting the approval,” he said.

“The judge ruled against us on a technicality and we’re moving on.”

Mr Natt played down criticism that both the Mines and Chief Minister’s departments had failed to pick up that MRM’s mining plan did not meet guidelines by specifying the type of mining at the site.

“It’s just one small word — the word underground,” he said.

Chief Minister Clare Martin said the government decided to introduce new legislation rather than appeal the decision to offer certainty to the mining operation.

“It was a difference of opinion between the judge and the Department of Justice,” she said.

“This amendment is not overriding the court judgement, it’s just clarifying the Act.

“We believe we had the right approach — the judge only identified one technicality.”

Opposition leader Jodeen Carney took a swipe at the government for appointing the inexperienced Mr Natt as the Mines Minister.

“The government says on the one hand that mining is really important to the Territory, but on the other hand they put the most junior minister in charge of that portfolio,” she said.

“Given the booming mining industry, the least Clare Martin could do was deliver up a minister who can do his job.”

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