Gunns Receives Approval for Bell Bay Pulp Mill in Australia

March 10, 2011 (Press Release) - Integrated forestry company Gunns Limited today announced the Federal Government (Australia) had granted the final environmental approvals for the proposed Bell Bay pulp mill.

The fully plantation timber-based mill now has all approvals necessary for construction and operation.

Gunns Managing Director Greg L'Estrange said the successful approvals were a critical step in finalising finance for the mill to begin construction.

"It is confirmation that the mill's design and operation must meet stringent environmental standards," he said.

"Gunns has heard community concerns around the mill project since its original approval in 2007, and has attempted to address these concerns. Fundamental to this has been the adoption of a 100 per cent plantation strategy and the adoption of the latest bleaching technology, the ECF Light process, which has allowed a significant reduction in chlorine dioxide usage.

"We will continue to work with the community on transparency, operational improvements and a comprehensive monitoring program that can provide greater and continuing confidence to the community on a balanced outcome of environmental, economic and social outcomes."

"The Government's comprehensive approval process brings certainty for our proposed investors and we would hope allay many of the community's concerns about potential environmental impacts on the marine environment.

"These latest approvals confirm that the release of biologically treated effluent into Bass Strait, in accordance with a sound environmental management regime, presents an acceptably low risk to the environment."

Gunns is continuing a due diligence process with potential equity investors in the mill.

Today's approvals by Environment Minister Tony Burke were for the amendment of previously approved modules to incorporate proposed mill changes and for the final three of 16 environmental management plan modules. The Minister has also added an additional condition to the approval (Condition 49) to ensure that any future alterations to the project deliver an equivalent or improved environmental outcome.

The final modules all related to managing the release of biologically treated effluent into Bass Strait. The modules were provisionally approved two years ago by former Environment Minister Peter Garrett, pending completion of a 26-month hydrodynamic modelling project to analyse treated effluent at similar mills overseas and then simulate water and sediment movements in Bass Strait. The mill had already been cleared for construction by Mr Garrett.

SOURCE: Gunns Limited