A CONTROVERSIAL new Tarkine iron ore mine is closer to opening after the state government granted a mining lease yesterday.
Environmental group the National Tarkine Coalition immediately criticised the lease as ``illegal and invalid''.
Venture Minerals' $200 million Riley project, about 125 kilometres south-west of Burnie, is awaiting Commonwealth environmental approval.
Under a bilateral agreement the assessment is being carried out by the Tasmanian Environmental Protection Authority.
``The company is delighted to have received its second mining lease following several years of committed exploration and investment in North-West Tasmania,'' Venture Minerals managing director Hamish Halliday said.
The hematite is at the surface so the project would have a ``very low environmental impact with no waste rock produced, no tailings dam required and no remnant open pit at the conclusion of mining''.
Venture has two other mines proposed in the Tarkine region, now being considered for world-heritage listing, including the larger Mount Lindsay project expected to create 1000 jobs.
The plan is to fund it through the Riley mine, which will provide about 60 jobs.
Resources Minister Bryan Green said the company had spent about $30 million on the approval process so far and believed Riley would ``measure up'' environmentally.
However, the EPA is still assessing it, with public submissions open until January 20.
The National Tarkine Coalition's Scott Jordan said the lease was invalid because environmental approval was outstanding.
``This is a another in a series of Bryan Green decisions that fail to meet his clear legal obligations when granting mining leases,'' Mr Jordan said.
However, Mr Halliday said a condition of the lease was Venture got environmental approval before it started digging.
It was the second Tarkine mine to receive a tick this week. Shree Minerals' Nelson Bay River iron ore mine was approved by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.