The Phosphate Resources Limited (PRL) mining operation was originally assessed and approved in 1997 under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. A mining lease was issued, which included a range of conditions to ensure environmental impacts are minimised and managed. A key condition is that "The Lessee shall not clear, degrade or damage any primary rainforest within the Leased land." This approval was also subject to the development and approval of an Environmental Management Plan. This Plan is reviewed every five years.
PRL must also obtain Clearing Permits to clear any native vegetaion within MCI70/1 (approved in 1997), in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) (CI) (EP Act). This Western Australian Act was applied as Commonwealth Law to Christmas Island in 2006.
The nature of approvals for any new or additional activities depend on the nature of the activity and the level and scale of likely environmental impacts. The potential environmental impacts are considered, and an appropriate level of environmental approval is determined in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act 1999 and the EP Act (where appropriate).
For any new or additional activities, a risk assessment is undertaken considering the nature and scale of any likely environmental impacts. The level of environmental approval is then determined in accordance with the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Act 1999 and the Environmental Proectection Act 1986 (WA) (CI) (EP Act).
PRL undertakes environmental surveys and studies appropriate to the level of assessment, following the relevant statutory processes. The approval process involves steps to minimise impacts to key environmental values, mitigating and managing activities where possible. In some cases, environmental offsets may be applicable.
PRL applied for approval to under EPBC Act in 2016 to undertake exploration on some targeted areas of Unallocated Crown Lands. This is currently being assessed by the Commonwealth Government. More information can be found here.