Gunns has until March 2011 to complete detailed hydrodynamic studies to prove that 64,000 tonnes of effluent to be released daily into Bass Strait will not harm marine life.
This means that final approval for the EIMP will not occur for at least a further 26 months.
Furthermore, it was reported by the ABC that Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says the proposed $2 billion mill in the Tamar Valley cannot go ahead until more studies are undertaken on its potential impacts to marine environments.
“National environment legislation requires that I take a precautionary approach to environmental protection,” he said in a statement.
“I am not satisfied, with that in mind and informed by the advice of the Independent Expert Group (IEG), that I can grant final approval for this mill without fully understanding its potential environmental impacts.
“That includes having a thorough understanding of the potential impacts of the mill’s effluent discharge on Commonwealth marine waters and absolute confidence in the proposed management and response strategies that are proposed to put in place to protect the environment.”
A new condition will also be put on the mill meaning Gunns could be liable for criminal and civil penalties if the mill is approved and breaks defined “environmental limits”.
While Garrett has clearly stated that the mill cannot “be approved” until these conditions are met, it has come as a shock to many that Gunns can still proceed with construction.
Acting PM Julia Gillard, confirmed on Channel Seven news this morning that Gunns can commence construction of the mill without the prior completion of the additional studies required and the environmental modelling assessed.
What we have is two opposing announcements from the Government, one yesterday from Peter Garrett who was suggesting that the mill could not “be approved” until the additional environmental requirements and been completed and assessed while Julia Gillard is today stating that construction can now commence.
Garrett carefully neglected to mention yesterday that construction could now commence.
What we have now is a government that is prepared to give a major industrial project “approval” to go ahead without actually giving it “approval” and without knowing the potential environmental damage it may cause once completed.
Frankly I’m disgusted by the way in which the Government has attempted to mislead the Australian public with such a duplicitous and misleading approach in attempting to appease those who are clearly, and quite rightly concerned about the unknown environmental damage this mill could cause, while at the same time giving the project the green light to commence construction as soon as Gunns wants to.