* South of Embley project could produce up to 50 mln T a
* Project faces long list of conditions to protect reef
* Rio Tinto shares fall 3.1 pct vs broad market's 0.8 pct
SYDNEY, May 15 Australia approved on Wednesday
miner Rio Tinto's $1 billion-plus South of
Embley bauxite mine and port project in Queensland after a
year's delay due to concerns about ships harming the Great
Environment Minister Tony Burke said the project on the Cape
York Peninsula could go ahead, subject to several strict
conditions that will protect marine life and the Great Barrier
Reef from shipping movements.
The South of Embley project could produce up to 50 million
dry product tonnes a year of bauxite, which could supply the
company's alumina refineries in Gladstone and Yarwun and boost
Rio Tinto's bauxite exports.
Major miners are looking to step up bauxite exports to
China, whose appetite has risen sharply as it has boosted
production of alumina. It takes four tonnes of bauxite to make
two tonnes of alumina and one tonne of aluminium.
Rio Tinto said it would comment on the government's approval
later on Wednesday. The Anglo-Australian company has long said
it would only decide on whether to go ahead with the South of
Embley project after receiving all government approvals.
The South of Embley mine is not part of the Pacific
Aluminium business that Rio Tinto has put up for sale as it
looks to slash its exposure to the weak aluminium market
following its badly timed $38 billion takeover of Alcan in 2007.
The conditions imposed by Canberra include stopping feral
pigs in the area from attacking turtle nests and devising a plan
to track dolphins in the region.
Rio Tinto's shares in Australia were down 3.1 percent at
A$55.77 on Wednesday afternoon in a broader market that
was off 0.8 percent.