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Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Page: 59


Senator O'Brien asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 24 February 2004:

With reference to the proposal to treat acid drainage into the King and Queen Rivers and Macquarie Harbour from the Mount Lyell copper mine:

(1) What are the specific conditions required of the Tasmanian Government and Australian Mining Industries (AMI) by the Federal Government in order for Commonwealth funding to be released for the proposal.

(2) Since 1 July 2002: (a) what meetings have occurred or correspondence has there been between the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government in relation to the proposal and, in respect of the meetings, when were they held and who attended; (b) what were the outcomes of the meetings or the correspondence; and (c) can copies be provided of the records of the meetings or the correspondence between the governments; if not why not.

(3) (a) What meetings have occurred or correspondence has there been between the Federal Government and AMI in relation to the proposal and in respect of the meetings, when were they held and who attended; (b) what were the outcomes of the meetings or the correspondence; and (c) can copies be provided of the records of the meetings or the correspondence between the Government and AMI; if not why not.

(4) Since 1 July 2002: (a) what meetings have occurred or correspondence has there been between the Minister, Tasmanian senators and/or the Tasmanian State Opposition in relation to the proposal and, in respect of the meetings, when were they held and who attended; (b) what were the outcomes of the meetings or the correspondence; (c) can copies be provided of the records of the meetings or correspondence between the Minister, Tasmanian senators and/or the Tasmanian State Opposition; if not why not.

(5) (a) What financial commitments has the Minister obtained from the Tasmanian State Government in relation to this project; (b) when were these financial commitments sought; and (c) when were they given.

(6) What date has been set by the Minister by which the Tasmanian State Government is to provide alternative proposals for this project.


Senator Ian Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The proposal has now been withdrawn by the proponents.

(2) (a), (b) and (c) No meetings were held between Australian Government Ministers and Tasmanian Government Ministers to discuss the Mt Lyell proposal.

The Hon Bryan Green MHA, the then Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment wrote to the Hon Warren Truss MP, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on 30 April 2003 seeking funds for a revised proposal to extract polluting metals from acid drainage that flows from the Mt Lyell copper mine.

The Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald and the Hon Dr David Kemp, replied to Minister Green on 13 June 2003 giving in principle approval to the revised proposal subject to a number of conditions, including a due diligence study.

Officers from the Department of the Environment and Heritage met with Tasmanian officials on 20 June and again on 30 July 2003 to discuss the Mt Lyell Acid Mine Drainage project proposal. The AMI proposal contained commercially sensitive information that was provided in confidence to the Australian Government. It would therefore be inappropriate to release details of the proposal or discussions and notes relating to it.

Minister Green wrote on 25 June 2003 to Dr Kemp requesting alternative conditions to those set in the 13 June 2003 letter.

In August, officials from the Departments of the Environment and Heritage and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry sought advice from the Office of the Supervising Scientist on the alternative conditions.

Based on advice from the Office of the Supervising Scientist, Dr Kemp and Senator Macdonald on 8 September 2003 replied to Minister Green revising the conditions.

Minister Green, on 9 October 2003, wrote to Senator Macdonald accepting the revised conditions in principle, but requested further discussion on treatment performance standard and monitoring and reporting.

On 15 January 2004 Senator Macdonald and Dr Kemp wrote to Minister Green advising him that the Australian Government was not able to support the revised proposal, as the conditions had not been met.

Copies of the correspondence have been provided to the honourable Senator and are available from the Table Office.

(3) (a) Two officers from the Department of the Environment and Heritage met with the Chief Executive Officer of AMI in Brisbane on 26 July 2003.

(b) At that meeting the Australian Government officials sought details of the technology that AMI proposed to use in the treatment plant on the King River and reassurance that the company had access to investment funds sufficient to contribute to completion of the project.

In response to these questions, commercially sensitive information was provided in confidence to the Australian Government officials by AMI.

(c) No record of the meeting was prepared and there was no subsequent correspondence from the Australian Government to AMI immediately following the meeting.

(4) None.

(5) The project has been withdrawn by the proponents.

(6) The Tasmanian Government has been invited to bring forward alternative project proposals as soon as possible.