Rio Tinto’s $1.4 billion bauxite mine expansion on Cape York could be subject to  reconsideration by the Federal Government following pressure from environmental groups  for Rio Tinto to be prosecuted for failing to identify threats to the Great Barrier Reef resulting from the passage up to 700 ships annually between Cape York and the Gladstone alumina refinery.


Rio’s South of Embley project, which is scheduled to begin production in 2015, will produce up to 50 million tonnes of bauxite a year. It will involve construction of barge and ferry facilities, a new port and ship-loading facility and the disposal of dredge spoil in offshore waters.


Rio first indicated that shipping through the Great Barrier Reef would increase to 700 ships per annum in its Environmental Impact Statement, released on August 1, 2011, having indicated in its September 2010 EPBC referral document that the action would not be taken within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage or National Heritage areas.


A request for reconsideration of the Minister’s decision in October 2010 by unnamed parties has called for the decision to be revoked and for the EIS process to be restarted.


“The substantial new information provided in the EIS makes it clearly apparent that controlling provisions for impacts on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, World Heritage properties and National Heritage places should be applied to the project and the EIS process started again.  This is particularly important given the World Heritage Committee has already expressed serious concern about how the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is being managed.


“Given the absence of information about the impacts on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in the original referral, we also request that you consider whether the proponent has provided false or misleading information and may be guilty of an offence under s489 of the Act.”


The request noted that a new crab species and a new freshwater shrimp species had been found as part of the EIS, and called for emergency listing of these species under the Act. Concerns were also epress for the critically endangered bare-rumped sheathtail bat.


“The inadequate nature of the fauna surveys conducted for the EIS means that Rio Tinto has understated the threat of the mine to this important species.”


 The draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South of Embley Project (supporting documentation) is available on the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation website at:


Comments on the request for reconsideration are due by 25 January. More information is here.