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High iron ore prices spur mining, protests in Australia’s Tasmania

Buoyant iron ore prices have paved the way for mining in Australia’s southern Tasmanian state, where developer Venture Resources’ project has come under pressure from conservationists over potential impact on a wilderness area.

Australia is the world’s top producer of iron ore, almost all of which comes from the ancient Pilbara region in the country’s west.

But strong Chinese demand and Brazilian supply constraints have propelled iron ore prices to decade-highs above $175 a tonne this quarter, allowing projects in less-conventional areas to become economic.

Venture Minerals expects its Riley project to create more than 100 jobs, and inject about A$100 million into the state’s economy over the mine’s life. Share of the base metal explorer are up by more than 50% since early December to A$0.058.

The company is on track to deliver its first shipment from the Riley project in the state’s west in the second quarter, having raised A$10 million ($7.8 million) to build a processing plant and haul road, according to a Venture Minerals’ presentation lodged with the Australia Stock Exchange on Thursday.

The project, however, has sparked the ire of conservationists with protesters reestablishing a presence in the area this week, as the Bob Brown Foundation calls for World Heritage listing of the area.

A Venture Minerals spokesman said the miner did not anticipate any schedule delay, and that it had all necessary environmental approvals and it plans to rehabilitate the mine following its two-year mine life.

Climber Anna Brozek, 23, scaled a 10-metre pole and remained suspended above the gate, blocking access to the mining site on Thursday before she was arrested, campaigner Scott Jordan told Reuters.

The foundation is concerned that land clearing could raise the risk of wildfires by lowering moisture content and because of the threat haul roads pose to endangered wildlife including the Tasmanian devil and the spotted tailed quoll, Jordan said.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Melanie Burton, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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