Red Mud Dam.
Red Mud Dam.

Group raises concerns about Yarwun development plans

CONCERNS have been raised about the impact a Rio Tinto Yarwun development could have on the region's koala population.

The global mining giant last month released documents detailing the potential impacts of its plans to build more borrow pits near Red Mud Dam.

The 10-year project would establish six 5m-deep borrow pit areas to increase capacity for the dam.

Gladstone Conservation Group co-ordinator Anna Hitchcock questioned if Rio Tinto had done enough to mitigate the impact its project would have on koalas.

The proposed land, Lot 7 within the Gladstone State Development Area, is home to a 96ha koala habitat and 162ha squatter pigeon habitat.

"They've chosen a piece of land next to Red Mud Dam because that's going to be more cost-effective but surely there's land that is already cleared that could be used," Ms Hitchcock said.

"Koalas are declining very rapidly ... it makes me sad to think we would put money before our ecosystem."

As part of the Federal Government approval process for the application to clear the land, Rio Tinto recently released the documents for public comment.

But a company spokesperson told The Observer no submissions were made.

They said the company planned to complete the work within the waste management precinct of the Gladstone State Development Area, which would be used as a tailings dam in the future.

"By using the footprint of the future dam area, the overall impact to koala and squatter pigeons is minimised," they said.

The report said Rio Tinto had identified three properties that could be used as offset areas.

It said the offsets would compensate for the "significant residual impacts" of the proposed development.

Ms Hitchcock said it was disappointing the company had not released the locations of the three potential offset areas to allow the public to comment.

"Fundamentally the Gladstone Conservation group is opposed to offsets in principle because we don't believe they protect biodiversity," Ms Hitchcock said.

"The offsets are only in place for 20 years ... it's not permanent protection ... you're not saving anything and you've still got a net loss of biodiversity."

The spokesperson said the Federal Government would assess whether the proposed offset areas were appropriate.

Pending approval, Rio Tinto hopes to begin work later this year.