Rio Tinto Alcan gains Commonwealth approval

15 May 2013

Rio Tinto Alcan gains Commonwealth approval

Rio Tinto Alcan today welcomed the Commonwealth Government's environmental approval of the South of Embley bauxite mining project near Weipa, on Queensland's western Cape York Peninsula.

The project was approved by the Commonwealth with rigorous environmental conditions including measures to protect the marine and terrestrial environment.

Rio Tinto Alcan president and chief executive officer, Bauxite and Alumina, Pat Fiore said approval of the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by Commonwealth Environment Minister Tony Burke was a significant milestone.

"The Weipa bauxite mine, which has an Indigenous workforce of 25 per cent, has been a mainstay of the far north Queensland community for nearly 50 years," Mr Fiore said.

"The South of Embley project would ensure our Weipa operations generate employment and other economic benefits for another 40 years.

"We are working closely with Traditional Owners to ensure the prosperity resulting from mining activities on the Western Cape continues to be shared."

Mr Fiore said the EIS approved by the Minister and assessed by the Commonwealth Environment Department was the culmination of over five years of extensive research and community engagement, including significant input from Traditional Owners.

The project will extend mining operations on an area of the company's existing mining lease south of the Embley River.

"The EIS outlines how we can sustainably develop the South of Embley bauxite resource while safeguarding the Cape and the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Fiore said.

"While our EIS already outlines a comprehensive package of measures to mitigate environmental and social impacts, the Commonwealth has required a number of additional, stringent measures.

"In addition, the Queensland Government placed a range of strict controls on the project when it approved the state EIS in May last year.

"Respect for the environment is central to the way we operate, and we will ensure all the conditions for the construction and operation of the project are met."

Mr Fiore said the Commonwealth Environment Minister had asked Rio Tinto Alcan to assess project shipping through the Great Barrier Reef.

"The project does not substantially change the number of bauxite ships traversing the Reef and the EIS shows that potential impacts on the environment can be managed. In fact, the project will initially result in less bauxite ships traversing the Reef as higher quality ore is accessed.

"We have been mining bauxite on the Cape - and shipping it safely through dedicated shipping lanes to Gladstone - for almost half a century."

The project will underpin the continued operation of Rio Tinto Alcan's refinery operations in Gladstone, supporting the expansion of Yarwun and more than 2000 refinery jobs, as well as grow bauxite export capability.

Mr Fiore said he would like to thank the hundreds of community members who have taken the time to speak to Rio Tinto Alcan about the project. "I would particularly like to thank Traditional Owners, and the broader community for their invaluable input."

The usual Rio Tinto internal approvals will be required. In addition, other relevant regulatory permits and authorities will be required before construction begins.

An average of 950 workers will be required for construction. During operation, employee numbers will range up to 1200 depending on production rates.

About Rio Tinto 

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and New York Stock Exchange listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, thermal and metallurgical coal, uranium, gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide and salt) and iron ore. Activities span the world and are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.

About Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa 

The Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa operations employ about 1000 full time employees, and in 2011 produced 20.7 million dry product tonnes of bauxite.There are more than 275 Indigenous employees at the operation, more than 25 per cent of the workforce.

Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa mining leases are on Aboriginal land and neighbour the communities of Aurukun, Mapoon, Napranum and Weipa. Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa supports Native Title rights and undertakes its mining operations in consultation with the Traditional Owners of the region, ensuring that obligations established in land use agreements can be met.

For further information, please contact:

Rio Tinto Alcan

Ian McGoldrick
Media and Communication manager
Office: +61 (0) 7 3625 4445
Mobile: +61 (0) 407 211 900

Rio Tinto

Bruce Tobin
Principal advisor, Media Relations
Office: +61 (0) 3 9283 3612
Mobile: +61 (0) 419 103 454

Website: http://www.riotintoalcan.com/

Twitter: Follow @riotinto on Twitter 

High resolution photographs and media pack available at: www.riotinto.com/media