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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22865

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 7 October 2003:

(1) Was the Department of Environment and Heritage consulted in the preparation of environmental guidelines for projects supported by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

(2) Is the Minister satisfied that the environmental guidelines approved in 2000 are adequate to ensure the environmental sustainability of projects supported by the EFIC.

(3) Is the Minister aware of the proposed Sepon Copper and Gold Mine in Laos and the EFIC's planned role in granting political risk insurance for this venture.

(4) Does the existing national environmental legislative framework in Laos meet the EFIC environmental guidelines.

(5) Does the impact of the proposed new project on water quality and fisheries satisfy the environmental guidelines.

Dr Kemp (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Department of the Environment and Heritage provided a submission as part of the general consultation for the development of Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) Environment Policy.

(2) EFIC's Environment Policy is based on the World Bank Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook, which is aimed at ensuring environmentally sustainable development. I understand that EFIC Environment Policy is widely recognised internationally as being among the most stringent of any export credit agency.

(3) Decisions by EFIC are not subject to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. I was therefore unaware of the Sepon project at the time of the question. EFIC has since advised that both the gold and copper developments at the Sepon project have undergone a comprehensive assessment process in accordance with the World Bank's Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook. Further, EFIC sought and considered public comment on the gold project environmental assessment documentation before approving the EFIC facility for the gold development, and is currently providing public access to environmental impact documentation associated with the copper development.

(4) EFIC's Environment Policy sets out a regime for the identification, assessment and mitigation of any significant environmental impacts of proposed transactions for which an EFIC facility is sought. The assessment undertaken by EFIC examines the impacts of the particular development project, not the adequacy of the legislative framework in the relevant country.

(5) I have been advised by EFIC that the gold project as proposed was in compliance with the World Bank Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook that underpins EFIC Environment Policy, including in relation to water quality and fisheries, and that EFIC has put in place facility conditions that will be monitored by EFIC for the duration of the EFIC facility.