Rothbury, Australia – On June 17, Anthony Houston was arrested after trying to prevent all industrial traffic from entering the tropical rainforest area of ??Tasmania, the southernmost tip of Australia.

Local merchants and farmers placed a chair in the middle of the entrance road to protest the proposed mining operation, which would result in the felling of a large area of ??old trees in 439,000 hectares (1,085,000 acres) of tropical rainforest, known as Tarkine or Takanya.

Tarkine is remote and sparsely populated. It is home to many endangered species, including rugged coastal wastelands, grassy woodlands and diverse landscapes of Gondwana era vegetation that contribute to the formation of Australia’s largest single tropical rainforest. It also owns a mine owned by the China National Minerals and Metals Group, which hopes to clear a new facility covering an area of ??285 hectares (704 acres)-roughly equivalent to 350 football fields-for storing mining waste, also known as Tailings.

Anthony Houston puts a lockdown to prevent MMG vehicles from entering the planned location of the new waste storage facility [Courtesy of Bob Brown Foundation]
Environmentalists say that the construction of the planned TSF site not only threatens endangered animals and birds, but also threatens the myrtle tree, which is estimated to be 500 years old. [Courtesy of Bob Brown Foundation]

Houston is one of dozens of protesters associated with the Bob Brown Foundation (BBF), a Tasmanian conservation organization that organizes opposition every day at a location near the town of Rothbury Protest planned by MMG.

“My message to all Australians is that it is really important to experience what is being lost,” Houston said after his release.

“I can’t believe the ancient trees they are tearing down. They knocked down more in one day than I planted in a year. It’s like the Lord of the Rings thing, we shouldn’t lose such a place.”

500 jobs online

The MMG mine has been in continuous operation for 85 years and mainly produces zinc, copper, lead and gold ores. The company stated that the new tailings storage facility (TSF) is critical to mining operations because it stores rocks, water and silt produced as by-products of the mining process.

As mine operations and tailings storage are “inseparable”, MMG stated that if the planned TSF is not carried out, Rothbury may lose up to 500 jobs.

“The proposed location is currently the only viable option for MMG, but we are actively looking for all possible options to extend the life of the mine,” the spokesperson said. “This includes investigating alternative locations, but currently, we have no viable alternatives.”

Although MMG has not yet been approved to begin its plan-which involves the construction of a toxic substance pipeline on the nearby Piman River-the company is clearing vegetation to build roads and conducting “engineering and environmental baselines and assessments to support the new tailings.” Storage field “”.

Since MMG first submitted its TSF proposal in May, activists associated with BBF have largely prevented MMG from entering the region [Courtesy of Bob Brown Foundation]

However, MMG was strongly resisted by the BBF. The organization stated that the buildings at the site not only threaten endangered animals and birds, but also threaten the myrtle tree, which is estimated to be 500 years old.

The sponsor of the BBF is Dr. Bob Brown, the first leader of the Australian Green Party in the Federal Parliament. Since MMG first submitted its TSF proposal in May, activists associated with the foundation have largely prevented MMG from entering the area.

They have a variety of methods, from sitting on the road leading to the forest to tying themselves to heavy machinery and building a tree sitting high in the forest canopy. Despite the cold winter temperatures, some protesters insisted on sitting in the trees for two weeks.

Since the movement began on May 18, at least 50 protesters have been arrested.

Brown told Al Jazeera: “Tasmania is a natural gem in the world of environmental destruction. The Tarkin region is a place full of wildness and beautiful scenery.” “It has cultural and environmental values ??and is an iconic Tasmanian devil. -The last bastion of the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial.”

‘Outstanding heritage significance’

Brown stated that BBF did not try to stop the operation of the Rosebery mine, but requested an alternative location for TSF.

“MMG is a Chinese state-owned company that wants to enter and level a 350 football field-sized tropical rainforest, not to drill for resources, but to simply dump their mining waste,” Brown said.

“MMG has repeatedly announced that there are multiple options for this tailings facility. There are other options south of the Pieman River, and MMG must seek a way that does not cause damage to the Tarkin rainforest.”

Although there is controversy because its borders have never been officially defined, it was evaluated by the Australian Heritage Committee in 2013 and found that its ecological value and cultural history have “outstanding national heritage significance”. The diversity and density of Takin Aboriginal sites—especially shell piles or rubbish piles, confirming the ancient connection to land and sea—makes it one of the “world’s greatest archaeological sites”.

However, only 4% of the areas recommended for national heritage protection were subsequently listed by the Australian government.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley is now considering whether the proposed TSF should be continued. She was originally scheduled to announce a decision in early June, but the government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Environment stated in the notice that the deadline had been extended to July 23.

The BBF protests have drawn national attention to this issue. In a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Australians stated that they would support Ley using her power to stop the proposed rainforest clearing and insist on MMG. Look for alternative locations for its TSF.


But in Tasmania, the value of the mining industry in 2016 and 2017 was US$1.82 billion, which received strong support for the construction of a new TSF for the Rosebery Mine.

The governor of Tasmania’s Conservative Party, Liberal Party Peter Gutwin, supported the project and criticized the protesters, calling them “radicals”, carrying out “dangerous and illegal activities” and “attempting to destroy and support Rothbury mine operations. Has worked in Tasmania for more than 80 years.”

Julie Crawford, head of mine environment and community, told Al Jazeera that MMG is committed to finding “the most balanced solution to ensure the future of the Rothbury Mine.”

“We are still seeking to complete preliminary investigations to select the best location for future tailings storage,” she said. “The work we are doing now will allow for informed decisions based on facts and pass the necessary environmental approvals and permits.”

The BBF pledged to continue its activities, and Brown stated that the foundation is ultimately seeking to include Tarkin in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area that currently borders the area.

“Tarkine has been determined to be worthy of world heritage protection,” he said.

“This area should be recognized to ensure that it is permanently protected and traditional owners can maintain contact with the land. Losing is too precious, and MMG should realize that we will not give up this battle.”


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