$20bn mine development rejection a blow for Aurukun community

Multi-billion dollar plans to develop the Aurukun bauxite resource at Cape York has been deferred by the Queensland Government who said benefits for local communities were insufficient.

The government also said timeframes for the delivery of the project were too long.

The bauxite lode near the Watson River at Aurukun, north of Cairns, is expected to be worth more than $25 billion in untapped resources.

In announcing the companies shortlisted to detail proposals for the venture last year, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the development of the bauxite resource was essential to the creation of a vibrant economic future for the Aurukun community and its native titleholders.

It was hoped the mine would turn Aurukun into a mining boom town and spread benefits and returns from the project to the native titleholders – the Wik and Wik Way people represented by the Ngan Aak-Kunch Aboriginal Corporation (NAK) – and the Aurukun Shire Council.

However it was confirmed yesterday that the proposals by Glencore and the Indigenous-backed Australian Indigenous Resources had been rejected.

“After carefully considering the proposals, the Government is not satisfied that either bid – from the Australian Indigenous Resources Pty Ltd (AIR) or Glencore International AG – could deliver what the Government had hoped for in a timely manner ,” Seeney said.

“We have decided to bring this process to a close and revisit this development opportunity at a later date, rather than take a chance that the objectives might one day be satisfied by one of the proponents.”

Seeney said the government “remains interested” in developing the resource stating that it was open to further proposals.

The decision comes as a blow to local community who had been banking on the deposit finally being mined.

The Beattiegovernment stripped French aluminium company Pechiney of the lease in 2003 because it was not being developed quickly enough.

It was then given to Chalco which spent a reported $100 million on work of a previous lease but cancelled the $3 billion deal in 2011, saying the Bligh government's condition of building a refinery was unworkable.

Aurukun Mayor Dereck Walpo has previously said the mine had the ability to transform the community.

"We're going to have a better economy, autonomy, better developments, better education, better health," he told AAP last May.

"All in all we won't be depending on welfare anymore.

"Everyone's going to have a job – I feel so excited about it."

Both Australian Indigenous Resources and Mr Walpo have been approached for comment.

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