Iron ore explorer Aztec Resources Ltd will restart operations on Koolan Island after receiving approval from Environment minister Mark McGowan. Following the environmental approval and the agreement reached with the traditional owners, the Dambimangari People, Aztec is confident the necessary mining leases and initial works approvals will be granted by April 2006.Aztec expects to commence development work on Koolan Island in April 2006, with the first shipment of iron ore taking place in December 2006.The approval conditions ensure that the waters and resulting ecosystems surrounding Koolan Island are protected throughout mining and groundwater aquifers, fauna and flora are appropriately managed. Aztec is finalising environmental management plans to ensure the conditions imposed will be adhered to.Aztec has been advised by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage ("DEH") that approval to proceed with certain components of the project will be required under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 ("EPBC Act"). This decision by the DEH reflects its focus on protecting the Northern Quoll, a small marsupial that has recently been listed as a threatened species under the EPBC Act.The DEH assessment will need to consider measures necessary to monitor, protect and conserve the island's population of Northern Quoll. Aztec will work with the DEH to implement a management plan in-line with the guidelines provided by the Commonwealth. The company does not foresee major disruptions to operations as a result of the DEH's review and remains committed to mining in a responsible manner to protect the Northern Quoll.Consequently, Aztec is developing a staged approach to the construction and development of the project to ensure that Aztec meets both is obligations under the EPBC Act and its planned construction timetable.Development and construction activities, that will not impact the DEH assessment and approval process, will commence immediately, following the granting of the Mining Leases and Works Approvals.
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