PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The federal government has nixed plans by privately held Phosphate Resources to explore on Christmas Island, with Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg saying it was likely to have "significant and unacceptable" impacts on the region.
Frydenberg said that the decision followed a rigorous assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which included the consideration of the social and economic benefits of the proposal, as well as comments received on the proposed decision from relevant Ministers and from Phosphate Resources.
“The government’s decision reflects the fact that Christmas Island is a unique and irreplaceable environment. The Island was uninhabited until the late 19th century, which allowed many species to evolve without human interference.
“Christmas Island is home to many unique and rare plants and animals. These include the millions of red crabs which migrate to the sea each year to spawn in what has been called one of the wonders of the natural world.”
Frydenburg said that environmental damage on small islands had a far greater impact because of its limited capacity to recover from declines in biodiversity caused by the cumulative effects of land clearing, habitat fragmentation and invasive species compared to large land masses.
“While there has been some mineral extraction dating back some 100 years, the government has determined that this particular proposal is likely to have unacceptable impacts on the environment of Christmas Island, including the endangered Abbott’s Booby, whose rainforest home on the Island is the only remaining nesting habitat for this bird in the world, and the endangered cave fern.
“There is also a very real threat that this pattern of clearing would allow the introduction of aggressive weed species with the capacity to overwhelm native vegetation and to alter the structure of the surrounding forest.”
Phosphate Resources has been operational on Christmas Island since 1990, with the company operating a phosphate rock mine exporting some 700 000 t/y of phosphate products to Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Christmas Island is an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, lying south of Java, Indonesia.