Christmas Island to chose between 200ha of rainforest or biggest employer, Phosphate Resources Ltd


Big employer could shut down: At stake, said Thomson, was the
future of the island’s economy. Phosphate Resources Limited, which
employs one in five residents, would shut down in three to five years
if the Federal Government refused to grant access to extra leases.

Mine could last until 2016: If approved, the mine would last
until about 2016, buying the remote Australian territory, 2800
kilometres west of Darwin, some time for the island to think of other
ways to fund itself. “If the mining operations cease in the next few
years, it will result in severe dislocation,” Thompson said.

Chamber of Commerce votes against extension: The Christmas
Island Chamber of Commerce has controversially voted against the
proposal, angering the company and Thomson. Chamber Greg Hunt, federal
parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Ian Campbell, would fly
to Christmas Island this coming week to inspect the site and listen to
both sides of the debate.

Lesson learnt from Nauru: “We need to build a long-term,
sustainable future for Christmas Island,” Hunt said. “Even if the mine
was approved, it would only provide an extra five years’ worth of
income and it is critical that we learn from the mistakes (of phosphate
mining) on Nauru. There are large parts of Christmas Island that are
certainly a biological ark.”

Hawke puts moratorium on clearing: The mine’s employees, through
the union, bought the company and restarted mining from stockpiles left
by the Commonwealth. They were allowed to do this in 1990, but the
Hawke government put a moratorium on rainforest clearing.

1200 inhabitants on island: About 1200 people inhabit the
135-square-kilometre island; 60 per cent of them Chinese and 20 per
cent Malaysian. The mining company, once controlled by its employees,
was now in the hands of a select group of major shareholders. The
biggest shareholder is Singaporean Willy Teo.

$2m on environmental impact study: Dan Gillespie, a consultant
to Phosphate Resources Limited, said the company spent $2 million on
the environmental impact study, now open to public submissions. Federal
Environment Minister Ian Campbell would decide whether the expansion
could be approved.

The Age, 10/12/2005, p. 8

Source: Erisk – 

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