Defenders Evicted as Toxic Mine Dump Threatens takayna
142 days is one long, dedicated campout. That’s how many days, and icy Tasmanian nights, it’d been for activists defending the ancient rainforests of takyana/Tarkine in the state’s north-west. That was until May 18, when frontline defenders, led by the Bob Brown Foundation, were evicted by a contingent of more than 30 police officers, under cover of darkness.
After initially setting up a blockade to protect a coupe of irreplaceable native forest from being logged, the activists had also been preventing development that would support a proposed new dam storing by-products from zinc, copper and lead mining operations in nearby Rosebery. MMG Australia Limited, the Chinese-state-owned mining company behind the mines, is pushing ahead with an application for federal environmental approvals.
At 140-hectares, the proposed tailings dam alone would be 70 times bigger than the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Picture that, filled with 25 million-cubic-metres of toxic, acid-leaching mine waste. Overall, it would involve clearing a total 285-hectares of ancient rainforest and melaleuca forest.
“There are two phases, firstly the company can clear rainforest to drill, as they are now. This is exempt from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Then the tailings dam, if approved by Federal Environment Minister, is estimated to be started in 2023. Even If they then decide not to go ahead, a lot of damage would have already been done,” explains Jenny Weber, Campaign Manager at Bob Brown Foundation (BBF). “MMG needs to cease and desist with plans for a new heavy metals acid tailings dam in Australia’s largest temperate rainforests.”
Since the eviction, forest defenders have returned daily, halting development throughout the past week by locking on to machinery. So far, 13 activists have been arrested.
BBF invited Prime Minister Scott Morrison to visit the “Tarkine crisis zone”, and also appealed to him in-person, only to be chaperoned away without answers.
But who was surprised? There’s been over a decade of inaction; The Heritage Council of Australia recommend a permanent National Heritage listing of 439,000 hectares in the takayna/Tarkine region back in 2012. The area is identified as having unrivalled World Heritage values (p.203) and conservation groups call for it to be returned to Aboriginal ownership and management. Home to Australia’s largest temperate rainforest, it’s vital habitat for endangered species, including Wedge-tailed Eagles, Masked Owls, Tasmanian Devils, Spotted-tail Quolls, and Swift Parrots to name a few.
“Many frontline defenders have mobilised to defend takayna at this moment in history, because the proposed dam would cause the largest amount of damage to this rainforest wilderness in more than a decade,” added Weber. “People are coming from interstate and rolling in from nearby towns and cities because they are dedicated to saving takayna. We need you to join us.”
Banner image – Tailings 'Bobabil Dam' for Rosebery Mine, Tasmania. Photo: courtesy of Bob Brown Foundation.