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A proposed $900 million expansion of Rio Tinto Aluminium’s Weipa bauxite mining operations was today declared a ‘significant project’ by the Queensland Government.

Coordinator-General Colin Jensen said the South of the Embley project proposal on the southern side of the Embley River would now undergo a rigorous environmental assessment process.

“The company 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.

“Initially the mine is 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 Aluminium mining in the region, particularly as existing mining areas at East Weipa and Andoom/Ely – both north of the Embley River – become depleted in the coming decades.

“The South of the Embley project proposal 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 proposal would include a port facility and beneficiation plant and a new port near Boyd Point, about 45 kilometres south-west of Weipa.

“The port would have a 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 as a going concern, and to house the South of the Embley project workforce in the existing Weipa town.

“It plans to commute workers by ferry and barge from terminals at Hornibrook Point and Humbug Warf 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.

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. 

“It’s 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.”

The Coordinator-General will develop a draft terms of reference for the environmental impact statement (EIS), which will cover the South of the Embley project’s potential environmental, economic and social impacts.

The draft terms of reference will be released for public comment and the public will have a second and more significant opportunity to comment when the EIS is released.


For more information visit www.dip.qld.gov.au