7 February 2022
The federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, failed to protect the takayna/Tarkine’s resident masked owls last month when she gave the giant Chinese mining company MMG the go-ahead for 14 kilometres of roadworks and 170 drill sites in the forest, the Bob Brown Foundation said today. The BBF wrote to Minister Ley overnight calling on her to reverse her decision to allow MMG to re-invade the rainforest.
The foundation’s science team, living in the forest, have been recording the threatened owls over recent months. Ms Ley’s own threatened species unit has listed the masked owl as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ and her own guidelines are:
Priority Actions in the Tasmanian Masked Owl Conservation Advice include:
Minimise disturbance in areas where the Tasmanian Masked Owl is known to breed, including necessary actions to manage the conservation of the subspecies.
For breeding areas, investigate formal conservation arrangements, management agreements and covenants on private land, and for crown and private land investigate inclusion in reserve tenure if possible.
“Our scientific advice, from expert Professor Brendan Wintle at the University of Melbourne, is that the frequency with which the rare owl has been recorded in the MMG-targeted rainforest indicates a high likelihood that the owl is breeding there. This ancient rainforest should be reserved under the government’s own guidelines. MMG acknowledges it has options for its toxic waste dump on the Rosebery mine side of the river outside the Tarkine but the masked owls have none,” Bob Brown said in Launceston today.
“I flagged the danger to the masked owls when I met the minister at the Tarkine Wilderness Lodge last year. The minister knew that MMG’s own consultants had heard the owls, yet she did not require a proper study. Her go-ahead for the waste dump works on 6 January does not mention the masked owls. However, we have now concluded our own study and sent it to the minister. She should act on it.”
“We have also asked MMG to hold off while the wellbeing of these very large owls is properly, scientifically assessed. MMG’s four or five alternatives for storing its acid wastes - in particular paste-filling back down into the mine - should be independently assessed too.”
“Meanwhile the BBF has a peaceful blockade ready should MMG ignore the urgent environmental need to protect this forest and send in its bulldozers. In 2021, 71 forest defenders were arrested before MMG’s heavy machinery stopped work when It was found that the company was acting with no legal right: that is, illegally. However, no one from MMG was arrested,” Brown said.