The Phosphate Resources Limited (PRL) mining operation was originally assessed and approved in 1997 under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. A mining lease was issued, which included a range of conditions to ensure environmental impacts are minimised and managed. A key condition was that there would be no clearing of primary rainforest with mining restricted to previously cleared or mined areas. This approval was also subject to the maintenance of an approved and current Environmental Management Plan. This Plan is reviewed every five years and approved by the Government.
In addition, PRL must also obtain clearing permits to clear any native vegetation within the lease covered by this 1997 approval, in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) (CI) (EP Act). This Western Australian Act was applied as Commonwealth law to Christmas Island subsequent to the 1997 approval.
The nature of approvals for any new or additional activities depend on the nature of the activity and the level and scale of likely environmental impacts. The potential environmental impacts are considered, and an appropriate level of environmental approval is determined in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act 1999 and the EP Act (where appropriate).
PRL undertakes environmental surveys and studies appropriate to the level of assessment, and follows the relevant statutory processes. The approvals process will generally involve steps to avoid impacts to key environmental values, and where this is not possible mitigate and manage activities to minimise these impacts. In some case environmental offsets projects are appropriate to offset unavoidable environmental impacts.
PRL applied for approval to under EPBC Act in 2016 to undertake exploration on some targeted areas of Unallocated Crown Lands. This is currently being assessed by the Commonwealth Government. More information can be found here.