HomeNewsNewsSaving biodiversity is not the full story

Saving biodiversity is not the full story

Opinion Piece: Ray Mostogl
Originally appeared in The Advocate

The BBF are currently seeking to disrupt the 86-year-old Roseberry mine’s plan to create a modern Tailings Storage Facility (TSF), engineered to global best practice on the understanding / commitment the trees and natural vegetation should be protected. Fortunately, Australia has legislated science-based processes and these processes will be applied under the EPBC Act to truly determine the appropriateness of the TSF in this location and how to offset impacts. 

The decision is pending.   

The modern Tasmanian mining industry takes a proactive, evidence-based approach to situations where land use is contested. In this case, there are several aspects.    

TMEC member companies subscribe to the principle that wherever possible and practical, land can benefit multiple users. It’s why the Iconic Walk being planned for the West Coast has the full support of the mining industry despite it traversing mineral rich land. Stakeholders working together found a way where both can co-exist. It’s what the industry stands for, co-existence.  

Tasmania currently has almost 3.5 million hectares of land listed as Reserves, surely fencing 285 hectares for a 140-hectare TSF in amongst the Arthur Pieman Reserve has all the hallmarks of low impact co-existence?    

The next critical consideration, which appears to be overlooked by the BBF, is “what are the net consequences if the Roseberry mine must close?”?   

Putting to one side the 500 plus workers and families directly impacted, the concentrates from Rosebery will need to be sourced from interstate or overseas locations where those minerals exist. These alternate locations will absolutely generate more greenhouse gasses from ‘dirty’ electricity used to produce the extra tonnes.   Within Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory have mines producing zinc and lead but with higher emissions. Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts (Aug 2021) shows Tasmania’s energy has an Emissions factor (CO2 equivalent gas created for 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity generated) of 0.16, whereas Queensland has 0.8 That’s FIVE times more CO2 released into the earth’s atmosphere from electricity in Queensland than Tasmania. If the replacement concentrate was sourced from other countries, it would probably be even more harmful given China, Peru, India, United States, Mexico, and Bolivia are the other leading producers of zinc.   

Emissions are not the only consideration made worse once mining moves away from the stringent focus and modern-day standards of Australia. Other potential Sustainable Development Goals are likely to be challenged. Lesser environmental standards, child labour, poorer wages and so on.   

While I may not agree with the actions being taken by the protestors, I believe they are mostly sincere people who genuinely believe in the importance of preventing approximately 140 hectares of land being inundated. I also believe many would be shocked to know their actions will in all probability increase global warming, may cause further environmental harm and international standards to protect the welfare of people may be lessened.  

Local biodiversity is a critical consideration, but it’s about much more than that.