|Tarkine National Coalition Incorporated v Minister for Sustainability, Water, Population and Communities  FCA 694 (17 July 2013)
The Federal Court overturned a controversial decision by the Commonwealth Minister for Sustainability, Water, Population and Communities to approve an iron ore mine in Tasmania's Tarkine region, which is home to one of the few remaining wild populations of Tasmanian Devils not affected by the presently incurable Devil Facial Tumour Disease (the disease).
The Court's decision was significant for two reasons:
Maules Creek coalmine approval challenge
- It suggests the obligation on the Minister to consider approved conservation advices, and potentially other similar documents under the EPBC Act, cannot be discharged other than by the Minister specifically considering the document itself.
- The Court’s reasoning in relation to the validity of the condition of the insurance population indicates that impacts on a species protected under the EPBC Act because it faces a risk of extinction "in the wild" can, to a degree, be validly mitigated through establishing non-wild insurance populations. (It is highly doubtful, however, that such measures could be used extensively without being inconsistent with the objectives of the EPBC Act.)
Approval of the Maules Creek coalmine is being challenged in the Federal Court by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.
EDO NSW, which will be assisting with the case, said the challenge rested on the basis that the decision to approve the mine had been made too quickly, and so not all factors had been given due consideration. Of particular concern is the quality of the ''offsets'' Whitehaven had promised to set aside in return for being allowed to clear up to 1500 hectares of forest classed as ''critically endangered''.
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