While Burke is satisfied that Rio Tinto Alcan will adhere to strict environmental controls placed on the company following a U-turn by the Government, who initially turned down the project in March 2012, there is still a great deal of concern about the environmental impact of the development.
The Wilderness Society, a non-profit organisation, claims that development of the site will threaten the region's A$6 billion tourism industry and threaten 63,000 jobs related to the Great Barrier Reef. It is also thought that several species of crab, shrimp and sea snake found in the area will also be threatened by the mining project, which will involve the clearing of 30,000 hectares of World Heritage standard land.
The Wilderness Society's Queensland representative, Dr. Tim Seelig, said the mine would result in 'environmental vandalism' on a great scale. The organisation's national director, Lyndon Schneiders said the development would not go ahead until it receives approval by the Queensland Land Court, adding that the battle is 'far from over'.
Rio Tinto Alcan has mining leases on Aboriginal land near Aurukun, Mapoon, Napranum and Weipa. The Canadian mining giant claims, however, that it supports native title rights and consults with traditional landowners in the region to establish that land use obligations can be met.
The company plans to extend operations south of its Weipa bauxite mine and build new infrastructure to support it.
If it goes ahead, the mining project is likely to result in an additional 900 shipping movements through the Great Barrier Reef.
Burke said that the project can go ahead 'without unacceptable impacts on the environment' based on 'rigourous environmental assessment'.