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16 January 2009

The State Government has begun the first public consultation phase of the environmental assessment process for the proposed expansion of Rio Tinto’s Aluminium Weipa bauxite mining operations.

Releasing the draft Terms of Reference today, Coordinator-General Colin Jensen called on interested parties to have their say on the terms that will shape the Environmental Impact Statement ( EIS ).

“The proponent has identified significant bauxite reserves on the southern side of the Embley River that could sustain its mining operations in the area for the next 40 years,” Mr Jensen said.

“The $900 million expansion is initially expected to produce 15 million tonnes of dry product per year with the potential to increase to 50 million tonnes per annum in future years.

“The project proposal would ensure the continuation of Rio Tinto’s Aluminium mining in the region, particularly as existing mining areas at East Weipa and Andoom/Ely are expected to become depleted in the coming decades.

“The South of the Embley project would create up to 350 jobs during the construction phase and, together with existing operations, would sustain up to 870 jobs when fully operational.

“Infrastructure associated with the project would include a port facility and a beneficiation near Boyd Point, about 45 kilometres south-west of Weipa.

“The project will be developed in areas adjacent to the Aurukun bauxite project being proposed by Chalco Australia.

“Development of both projects simultaneously can provide opportunities for cooperation on infrastructure in the area including the port, roads and airports.

“The port would have an initial capacity to load 30 million tonnes per year and potential to expand to 63 million tonnes per annum in future years.

“The proponent intends to retain the Port of Weipa and to house the South of the Embley project workforce in the existing Weipa town.

“It is proposing to commute workers by ferry and barge from terminals at Hornibrook Point and Humbug Wharf on the northern bank of the Embley River to the western bank of the Hey River and then by road to the main mine infrastructure at Boyd Point,” Mr Jensen said.

Rio Tinto Aluminium, which is wholly owned by Rio Tinto, currently provides about 26 per cent of Australia’s bauxite production, 14 per cent of its alumina and 26 per cent of its primary aluminium.

On November 21 2008 Mr Jensen declared the South of the Embley project a ‘significant project for which an EIS is required’.

“It is important for the public to know that a ‘significant project for which an EIS is required’ declaration is not an indication of approval of a project,” Mr Jensen said.

“Rather it signals the beginning of a rigorous assessment of the project’s impacts on the natural, social, economic, built and cultural environment.”

 Earlier this year the Queensland Government announced an historic partnership agreement to generate more jobs for Indigenous people in the Western Cape region of Queensland.

The Western Cape Regional Partnership Agreement brought together State and Federal governments, traditional owners, three local councils, the Western Cape Chamber of Commerce and Rio Tinto to deliver 250 fully-paid jobs over the next five years for local Indigenous people in the Western Cape.

In August last year, the Coordinator-General also declared as ‘significant projects for which an EIS is required’ the proposals by Chinese aluminium company, Chalco, to develop the Aurukun bauxite deposits and to construct an alumina refinery in Queensland.  Chalco was the successful bidder for the Aurukun bauxite resource as part of an international competitive bidding process conducted by the State Government.

The ‘significant project’ declarations for Rio Tinto Aluminium and Chalco will allow the regulatory requirements to be managed through a central process coordinated by the Department of Infrastructure and Planning.  

The draft Terms of Reference are available to view at; Weipa Town Council Office, Napranum Aboriginal Shire Council Office, Department of Infrastructure and Planning Office in Cairns, State Library of Queensland and online at www.dip.qld.gov.au/projects

Submissions should be made in writing or online and close on Monday 16 February 2009.

Media Contact – 3405 3481

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