15 February 2018
The Northern Territory Government has given a defunct iron ore mine project in the Roper River region the green light to restart operations.
International shipping and mining company British Marine, which also has an interest in Queensland bauxite operations, has invested in the mine through its subsidiary Britmar (Aust).
The site has been abandoned since the mine's former owner Western Desert Resources went into liquidation in April 2015.
Western Desert Resources' former managing director Norman Gardner controversially cleared land to build a haul road to the nearby port in 2012, before getting federal environmental approval.
The new company's environmental commitments outlined in its mining management plan should be made public, according to Environment Centre NT's director Shar Molloy.
"The issue with a mine management plan is it's not public, it's not transparent, we have no idea what environmental conditions are in there," Ms Molloy said.
"There's no way of assessing, we don't have any information, other than that was written and approved back in 2012."
In 2012, the NT Environment Protection Authority's environmental assessment recommended the project proceed, despite "information gaps" including a lack of baseline data.
"This project assessment is unable to conclude that the matters that may cause significant impacts to the environment have been fully assessed," the report said.
According to Minerals Council of Australia NT executive director Drew Wagner, Britmar (Aust) expects to have the mine operating by next dry season.
"I believe there is a different business model for supply chain that these guys are looking at," he said.
"That was not necessarily taken into account for the contracts that Western Desert had signed, which was purely a matter of timing as well, given the current market."
Approval of the mining management plan, along with ensuring environmental commitments are upheld, rests with the Northern Territory's Primary Industry and Resources Minister Ken Vowles.
Mr Vowles was unavailable for interview, but in a statement the Primary Industry and Resources Department said no further environmental approvals were required for the project.
"The authorisation granted only allows the company to undertake planned, approved works, therefore the environmental assessment is still appropriate," a spokesman said.
"Any changes to the activities in the approved MMP will require a variation to be lodged with the department for assessment and approval."
Northern Territory Environment Minister Lauren Moss said "major" reforms to mining approvals and regulatory oversight were still being worked on and "stage one" would be introduced into parliament this year.
Yugul Mangi Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Bill Blackley said the news had been well received in the community of Ngukurr, about 55 kilometres south-east of the mine site.
"Word just got around like wildfire," he said.
"I've had around eight calls from people this afternoon looking for work."
"We've got the workforce and we've got the people who really want to work and are looking forward to the opportunity of earning a decent wage with a proper job and getting out of poverty."