Senator Whish-Wilson expressed his support for those protesting in Tarkine, Tasmania last week, July 8th 2021. Protesters are trying to protect the rainforests in which foreign mining company, MMG, has been building new infrastructure. 

The Greens’ message of support

Peter Whish-Wilson represents the Australian Greens and has been a Senator for Tasmania since 2012. On Thursday, July 8th 2021, Senator Whish-Wilson posted on Instagram a message of support to all those who were protesting. His message highlights how, despite being recognized as valuable territory, the state and federal governments have not yet labelled Tarkine as a world heritage site. Nor have they halted MMG’s destructive activities. Whish-Wilson encourages people to volunteer for the cause and endorses the Bob Brown Foundation for all of the steps they have taken to stop MMG. 

The Affected Area

Tarkine, also known as Takayna, is a forest reserve in Tasmania made up of temperate rainforest, sand dunes, and coastal shrubland. Its temperate rainforest is the largest in the Southern hemisphere. The Tasmanian Aboriginal people have long had connections to the area. It is also a refuge for endangered species like the Masked Owl and Tasmanian Devil. It is situated in the North West of Tasmania and spans 447,000 hectares.

Map of Tarkine in Northern Tasmania

The Destruction

MMG (Minerals and Metals Group) is a mining company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, but was founded by a Chinese multinational state-owned enterprise. MMG operates internationally to produce precious metals. Their projects take place in Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru. MMG took over OZ minerals’ operations in Tasmania when it was first formed in 2009. The state’s most notable mine is the Rosebery mine, which has been in operation since 1936. Over the years, Rosebery has provided MMG with copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver. Its estimated value of eight billion dollars makes it the most prosperous mine on Tasmania’s west coast.

However, MMG wishes to expand operations into the Tarkine. They have begun the clearing of roughly 285 hectares of land in which they plan to store their mining waste, also called tailings. The construction process and facility itself will flatten Takanya’s rainforests. The company also plans on building a tailings dam which is certain to cause further destruction to the ancient landscape. On top of that, the rainforest already suffers from the continual logging of leatherwood trees. These trees are not only important for plant pollination but also for Tasmania’s honey industry. 

The protests

MMG’s destruction of the Tarkine has not gone unnoticed. For three months, people have been gathering at the base of the Tarkine near the town of Rosebery to stop MMG from moving forward. Leading many of the protests are associates of the Bob Brown Foundation. The foundation is involved in many environmental issues in Australia. Besides organizing protests, the foundation focuses on raising awareness of the scientific, cultural and economic arguments that favour the protection of nature. Dr Bob Brown, former senator and the parliamentary leader of the Australian Green, is now the Foundation’s Patron

Since MMG’s construction of new roads first began in mid-May, protestors have successfully been slowing down the process. Many have participated in sit-ins on the road while others have gone a more extreme route, strapping themselves onto heavy machinery and climbing up into trees for days at a time.

The Tarkine has had a long history of political unrest | The Examiner |  Launceston, TAS
Dr Lisa Searle protesting in the Frankland River area of the Tarkine. Picture: Joe Armao

But these protests have come at a cost. Since May 18th, over seventy protestors have been arrested. 

Senator Whish-Wilson stands in solidarity with protestors. He writes in his Instagram post

Folks from all walks of life are travelling to North West #Tasmania to make a statement- saying enough is enough. We need to stop this foreign owned mining corporation MMG from bulldozing some of the world’s most wild – carbon rich- biodiverse rainforests on the planet, to – of all things- put in a toxic waste dump next to a pristine river, in the middle of the rainforest”

What’s next

Last week, Australia’s federal environment department declared that MMG’s proposal must undergo a full assessment before any work is continued. This decision was made under the ‘Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act’. MMG later announced that they would withdraw from the project. However, it is not clear how long the work will be interrupted. Protestors in Tarkine celebrated, as their peaceful demonstrations were what pressured the company and government to come to these conclusions. Whish-Wilson explained in an Instagram post after MMG announced their temporary withdrawal that he plans to meet with their CEO. Whish Wilson wants to explore what alternative options MMG has for the tailings dam and toxic waste dump.

For more on this story:

Where mining meets rainforest: the battle for Tasmania’s Tarkine

Bob Brown Foundation’s Instagram

For more on Australian Greens:

Australian Greens call for National Compensation for Stolen Generations Survivors

Victorian Greens Dissatisfied with Government’s Emission Targets

Hailey Roop

Hailey is an undergraduate student at McGill University studying Economics and Environment. She is interested in addressing environmental and social issues through community engagement efforts. In her free time, she likes to explore the city of Montreal on foot or by bike!

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