Planned Australian gold mine halted by discovery of endangered bat species

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CANBERRA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- A planned gold mine in Australia's Northern Territory (NT) has been stalled by the discovery of a threatened species of bat.

A small population of ghost bats have emerged as a major environmental hurdle to the development of the Union Reefs gold mine more than 200 km southeast of Darwin.

It is estimated that 35 percent of the 10,000 ghost bats in existence live in the NT.

"The number one threat that's been identified for ghost bats is loss of habitat and degradation due to mining activities," Damian Milne, a senior scientist at the NT Department of Environment, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"Any mining activity that's associated with their key roosting habitats can have an effect... on their survivability."

If it goes ahead the mine is expected to create up to 80 full-time jobs for the small nearby town of Pine Creek.

Mark Edwards, a project director with Kirkland Lake Gold, said that the bat population at the site was between 20 and 30.

"We understand what the issues are, and we're working with both research and the government to try to have the least amount of impact," he said.

Edwards said that the firm is working with local researchers to potentially develop new habitats for the ghost bats in historic collapsed mining shafts.

The fate of the project will depend on the federal Department of Environment's assessment of Kirkland's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

"The proposal is being assessed under the bilateral arrangements in place between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory," a department spokesperson said. Enditem

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