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Thursday, 15 June 1989
Page: 4111


Senator DUNN —My question is directed to the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. When will the boundaries of the euphemistically named conservation zone in stage 3 of Kakadu National Park, which is a zone set aside for mining, be determined? What is the period of exploration and how many mining companies hold leases within the zone and will be likely to explore and/or mine during this period? What is the Minister's position on the protection of sacred sites in the area? And, finally, is the Minister aware of the erosion which has arisen from the exploration activities at the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd (BHP) gold mining site at Coronation Hill, in particular, along the access road to the old workings and the effect this has had on the nearby streams and the surrounding environment? Will the Government require the company to carry out restoration work on the area?


Senator Crichton-Browne —Another movement to the right, is it?


Senator RICHARDSON —I did not hear the interjection so I cannot respond to it. I cannot give Senator Dunn a date as to when the decision will be made. Like many others, I would have thought that the decision would have been made by now. But difficulties have arisen, in particular with Aboriginal sacred sites, which is something to which Senator Dunn has referred in her question. My understanding is that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Hand, had discussions with the Northern Territory Government in an attempt to resolve those difficulties. I shall ask him, as a result of Senator Dunn's question, what progress he has been making. I am not aware of a date having been set for this decision to be made by Cabinet. So I cannot enlighten Senator Dunn exactly, except to say that I hope it is soon.

There are three companies which have pre-existing mineral leases or mineral lease applications. BHP Gold Mines Ltd has 29 mineral leases, BHP Minerals Ltd has 37 minerals lease applications and Destiny Prospecting Pty Ltd holds three mineral leases. The date for commencement of a period of five years, which was proposed as an exploration period, has not been set. But I assume that that will be part of the decision that the Government will make in the very near future.

I am aware of some erosion problems on the site at Coronation Hill and on the access road. In fact, I had discussions only a few weeks ago with representatives of BHP on this matter. I have organised to meet with them on site during July to take those discussions further. I point out that whatever sediment has escaped from Coronation Hill into the surrounding environment would be a pretty small percentage of the total sediment load that is expected in those streams during the wet season. It is a matter of concern if mining is to proceed. I have raised the matter and I intend to pursue it further. In terms of the environmental conditions that apply, obviously the Government would require rehabilitation of what work has occurred at Coronation Hill in the event of a decision not to allow mining to proceed, but if a decision is taken to allow it to proceed, clearly the Commonwealth will demand a full rehabilitation of the site at the end of its mining life.