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Mining Boom Takes Its Toll on Australian Wilderness

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Pristine regions of Australia are under threat as mining companies push to expand, once again creating uproar from environmentalists. The area now under fire is the Cape York Peninsula in far North Queensland, a region well-known for its vast, untouched wilderness and a popular tourist destination among travellers.

Prominent environment group, The Wilderness Society has lodged an application for an emergency heritage listing to be placed on the region in a bid to slow mining permit approval. The Cape York Peninsula has been under threat from destructive expansion for years as a result of its rich resources and the discovery of bauxite, coal, kaolin and sand which have made the region a premier target for mining corporations. There are now six new mining permits under application for the peninsula and there is growing concern about the future of the environment.

The Wilderness Society is urging the federal government to take action as the new mines would result in the destruction of over 45,000 hectares of native forest and grassland.

Despite the lobby group's attempt to gain emergency heritage listing, Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke claims the title is rare and even if it is approved there is little that can be done to shut down mining in the region altogether. Concerns from Queensland residents however are prevalent with a moratorium being passed in January this year that prevents coal seam gas mining in other parts of the state. The boom in mining in Australia has increased significantly over the years with an unprecedented level of development in the Cape York Peninsula.

The new permit applications are merely an addition to the numerous mines under construction throughout the resource-rich nation. Regardless of attempts to be environmentally conscious, and with aims to protect the unique flora and fauna, the Australian economy relies heavily on mining productivity. There is no denying that governments are torn between the immediate profitability of mining and the long-term benefits of investing in eco-tourism. In 2010 the Western Australian government proposed the development of a new marine park in Camden Sound, a premier humpback whale calving ground and resource rich coastline. The guidelines in the proposal however, still allowed the transfer of machinery and tankers through the park along with extensive deep-sea drilling resulting in massive financial gain but huge environmental loss.

The Wilderness Society have been consistent in their use of lobbying tactics to enforce protection for Australia's unique environment yet with legislation differing across state governments it is difficult to predict the future of the Cape York Peninsula in the North and Camden Sound in the West.