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Friday, 10 October 1986
Page: 1877

Ms McHUGH —Has the Prime Minister seen reports that a mining company is commencing mining operations in Kakadu National Park? Will the Government permit this activity to continue?

Mr HAWKE —I am indebted to the honourable member for Phillip for her question. Let me make it clear that under the Hawke Labor Government there will be no mining of any sort in the areas comprising former stages 1 and 2 of Kakadu National Park. Kakadu National Park is one of Australia's great environmental treasures. Indeed, it is one of the world's great environmental treasures, as is evidenced by the fact that it is one of some 200 areas on the World Heritage List. It is one of the most beautiful wetlands in the world, a sanctuary for more than 200 species of bird life. It contains the finest collection of Aboriginal rock art in the world. It has a sensitive landscape and unique geological features that make it an area that must be carefully managed and preserved.

The reports of Geopeko Mineral Exploration's exploration in Kakadu have been drawn to my attention. I have been advised that, under the national park legislation, pre-existing mineral interests are preserved. Geopeko, therefore, is entitled under law to explore in the areas of its existing leases-to explore. If, as media reports indicate, Geopeko is exploring outside pre-existing mineral leases, the Government will seek to prevent that activity through the courts. As Peko has been advised on previous occasions, the Government does not accept that the mere application for a leasehold interest carries in itself any right to explore or mine. As far as Peko's existing leases are concerned, while the Government cannot prevent further exploration occurring, we will take every step within our power to ensure that no mining of any kind takes place within the existing Kakadu National Park.

I am advised that Peko-Wallsend Operations Ltd has 14 mineral leases in the stage 2 area, totalling around 550 acres but in five separate areas. My information is that these leases, small and scattered as they are, do not provide a sufficient area to establish a mine, and we will not grant additional leases. Furthermore, given that the existing leases are principally located in sensitive wetlands subject to seasonal flooding, it is almost inconceivable that any proposal for mining activity could be consistent with the stringent environmental standards that the Australian Government is obliged to apply to World Heritage areas. So there should be no misunderstanding whatsoever on the part of the mining company as it embarks upon any exploration. I repeat: The Government will not countenance any mining in the existing Kakadu National Park. That is categorical; it is final.