Bell Bay Pulp Mill

The Bell Bay Pulp Mill, also known as the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill, is a proposed $2 billion pulp mill which Gunns Limited is planning to build in the Tamar Valley, near Launceston, Tasmania.

The proposed mill will use the Kraft process, Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) bleaching, and be fed with eucalypt forest timber. Construction of the mill is supported by the State Government who argue that the project will generate $6.7 billion in spending over 25 years and create 2000 temporary jobs during the construction phaseFact|date=October 2007. Gunns claims its development could create 300 direct jobs and over 1,000 indirect jobs in the George Town area.Fact|date=October 2007

The proposed site is near the main shipping port in northern Tasmania, and is zoned "heavy industrial". Industry already located at the site include an aluminium smelter, ferro-alloy processing plant, a power station, two operating woodchip mills and other timber processing operations.

Included in the proposed development is construction of a large and associated warehouse and wharf within the Tamar River Conservation Area as well as the insertion of a supply pipe to be 'jet trenched' into the bed of the Tamar River and across it.

It is not the first pulp mill proposed for Tasmania. In 1989 Wesley Vale pulp mill was debated, but did not go ahead.

Project assessment and approval

The Tasmanian Government has employed the Finnish consultants, Sweco Pic, to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the proposed mill. Community groups opposed to the mill criticised the choice of this company. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2007/s1899534.htm The World Today - Tasmanian government criticised for pulp mill consult ] ]

On 4 October 2007 federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull gave Commonwealth approval for the mill which had previously been given approval at a state level by the Tasmanian Government. He said an extra 24 conditions would be imposed on the mill which will be built by Gunns Limited at a cost of $2 billion. He said the decision was based on science and recommendations made by the Australian Governments chief scientist Jim Peacock. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/04/2050653.htm Govt gives green light to pulp mill - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) ] ] Tasmanian Premier, Paul Lennon said the federal conditions duplicate permit conditions already voted for in the Tasmanian parliament. He has also noted that benchmarks have been relaxed from draft conditions in the monthly limit of chlorate effluent. [Lennon discusses pulp mill approval (Lateline, ABC, 4 Oct 2007.) [http://abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/05/2051438.htm?section=australia] ]

Opposition and criticism

Opponents of the mill argue that as well as environmental impacts, there will be economic costs, including taxpayer subsidiesFact|date=October 2007 and most of the jobs are likely to be taken up by non-Tasmanians. Opponents include a number of environmental and political groups including The Wilderness Society, [ [http://www.pulpmill.wilderness.org.au Wildernesss Society] ] Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill Inc., [ [http://tapvision.info Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill] ] Rainforest Action Network, [ [http://www.ran.org/ Rainforest Action Network] ] and the Tasmanian Greens [ [http://tas.greens.org.au/publications/other/PULP_MILL_LEAFLET_-_web.pdf Tasmanian Greens Pulp Mill leaflet] ] .

There are claims that the pulp mill is dangerous to the environment as effluent released into Bass Strait may harm local marine life.

On 16 September 2006 A protest rally against the proposed pulp mill was held in Launceston with estimates ranging from 3,000 to 8,000 people attending. Speakers included Greens politician Christine Milne and TV gardener Peter Cundall. On 16 June 2007, an opposition rally to the mill attracted a crowd generously estimated at 10,000. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Thousands march against northern Tas pulp mill| publisher =ABC News Online |date=2007-06-16 | url=http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/06/16/1953239.htm | format = | doi = | accessdate =2007-08-29]

In April 2007, allegations were made that a Gunns lawyer was involved in preparing new legislation introduced by Premier Paul Lennon, which bypasses the Resource Planning and Development Commission [ [http://www.rpdc.tas.gov.au Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC)] ] and replaces it with a government-appointed consultant, which raised questions about Gunns influence over the current State Labor government [cite journal | title = Tas: Greens call for corruption probe into proposed mill | journal = AAP Australian National News Wire |date=Apr 3 2007] . There are other allegations of collusion and co-operation between the company and Tasmania's political leaders.cite journal | last = Flanagan | first = Richard | authorlink = Richard Flanagan | title = Out of control: the tragedy of Tasmania's forests | journal = The Monthly | volume = 23 | pages = 20–31 |date=May 2007]

The proposal has also been criticised for not using the best technology for bleaching process, and instead using elemental chlorine (rather than hydrogen peroxide or methanol) in the production of the bleaching chemical chlorine dioxide. The process has not been approved by the United Nations Environment Programme and is illegal under Tasmanian guidelines. [Radio Marinara 3RRR, 15 April 2007. Dr Warwick Raverty, Pulping Chemist.] [National Toxics Network Inc (oztoxics.org) " [http://www.oztoxics.org/ntn/pulp%20mill%20brief.pdf Pulp Mill Brief] ". Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith PhD.] According to, Dr Warwick Raverty, a chemist with over 20 years experience in the Kraft pulping and paper, a hiccup with a waterspray would cause the bleaching chemical chlorine dioxide to be contaminated with elemental chlorine and lead to the release of persistent organic pollutants (organochlorides and dioxins), causing environmental harm, ruining the salmon and seahorse farms in the Tamar Estuary, and breaching the Stockholm Convention. Dr Raverty resigned from the now defunct Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) panel on the mill, citing undue political interference. Gunns was unable to find another mill in the world which used the process for one year without problem, when the data was requested by the RPDC.

In July 2007, The Wilderness Society launched a legal case against the federal government, claiming federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull acted illegally by allowing the pulp mill to escape proper assessment by the independent RPDC. Turnbull agreed to withhold a decision on the approval of the mill until after the August 6 conclusion of the case. The case was dismissed in August 2007. [Sydney Morning Herald. October 4, 2007. " [http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/timeline-for-the-pulp-mill-project/2007/10/04/1191091250870.html Timeline for the pulp mill project] "]

Gunns director John Gay had previously put pressure on the state government to approve the mill quickly by threatening to take the project interstate or overseas: the company has already invested an estimated $100 million (5% of expenditure) on plans and consultants for the $2 billion project. [http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/712/36982 Green Left - Pulp mill court challenge begins ] ] [cite news
last = Mansell
first = Ingrid
coauthors =
title = One man and his $2bn millstone
work = The Australian Financial Review
publisher = Fairfax Media
date = 2008-08-23
url =
accessdate =
] Geoffrey Cousins, former advisor to John Howard, has also been a vocal opponent of the mill, comparing it to the Franklin River Dam. [The Age. Oct 5, 2007. p1 & 11.]

Paul Lennon has claimed that the wood supply agreement "will not provide for any old growth timber to be used in the pulp mill." [Lateline. 04/10/2007 ABC [http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2007/s2051379.htm Lennon discusses pulp mill approval] ] , while Peter Garrett has said that the tracts of old growth forest that will supply the mill were already earmarked for logging under the Regional Forest Agreement. [The Age. October 6, 2007. " [http://www.theage.com.au/news/climate-watch/garrett-defends-his-support-of-pulp-mill/2007/10/05/1191091367523.html Garrett defends his support of pulp mill] "]

A January 2008 report commissioned by The Wilderness Society estimated the Bell Bay Pulp Mill may run at a $300 million loss to Tasmania.cite news |title=Report questions pulp mill benefits |url=http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/29/2148424.htm |publisher=Australian Broadcasting Corporation |date=2008-01-29 |accessdate=2008-01-29 ]

A second legal challenge against the Federal approval process for the Pulp Mill is underway by a group known as Lawyers For Forests (LFF). The case is questioning the legality of the decision making process taken by former Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. The LFF have claimed in court that Mr Turnbull did not adequately assess the proposed mill as he was required to by law. [The Australian. June 18, 2008. " [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23883822-5006788,00.html Legal challenge to Tasmanian pulp mill underway] "]

References

External links

* [http://www.gunnspulpmill.com.au/ Pulp Mill Project Page]
* [http://tapvision.info/ Tasmanians Against the Pulp mill (TAP) Homepage]
* [http://www.tamarpulpmill.info/ Independent (anti-mill) Opinion on the Bell Bay Pulp Mill] - includes Timeline of events


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