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Forest products are an important part of the Tiwi Islands economy, but the sector has had a chequered history. Forestry dates back to 1898, with plantations being trialled from the 1950s and 1960s.[65][66] A native softwood enterprise was established in the mid-1980s, as a partnership between the private sector and the Land Council, but by the mid-1990s, the Land Council was winding the venture down, noting that its investor partner had "various tax driven ambitions which are growingly incompatible with our own employment and sustainable production goals".[67] Despite the setback, it was still considered that forestry was likely to be crucial to the Tiwi economy,[68] and in 2001 the Land Council and Australian Plantations Group commenced a major expansion of Acacia mangium plantations to supply woodchips.[69] The operations of Australian Plantations Group (later named Sylvatech) were purchased by Great Southern Group in 2005.endemic species on the Tiwi Islands. Thirty-eight threatened species have been recorded, and a number of plants and invertebrates are found nowhere else, including eight plant species and some land snails and dragonflies.[63] Threatened mammals include Brush-tailed rabbit rats, northern brush-tailed phascogales, false water rats and Carpentarian dunnarts.[59] The islands host the world's largest breeding colony of crested terns and a large population of the vulnerable olive ridley turtle;[63] a sea turtle conservation program commenced on the islands in 2007.[63] The seas and estuaries around the islands are home to several species of shark and saltwater crocodiles.

The islands have been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because they support relatively high densities of red goshawks, partridge pigeons and bush stone-curlews, as well as up to 12,000 (over 1% of the world population) great knots. Other birds for which the Tiwi Island populations are globally significant include chestnut rails, beach stone-curlews northern rosellas, varied lorikeets, rainbow pittas, silver-crowned friarbirds, white-gaped, yellow-tinted and bar-breasted honeyeaters, canary white-eyes and masked finches.[64] The birds have a high level of endemism at the subspecific level; the Tiwi masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae melvillensis) is considered endangered and the Tiwi hooded robin (Melanodryas cucullata melvillensis) is at least endangered and may be extinct.[59]

Forestry and mining

Forest products are an important part of the Tiwi Islands economy, but the sector has had a chequered history. Forestry dates back to 1898, with plantations being trialled from the 1950s and 1960s.[65][66] A native softwood enterprise was established in the mid-1980s, as a partnership between the private sector and the Land Council, but by the mid-1990s, the Land Council was winding the venture down, noting that its investor partner had "various tax driven ambitions which are growingly incompatible with our own employment and sustainable production goals".[67] Despite the setback, it was still considered that forestry was likely to be crucial to the Tiwi economy,[68] and in 2001 the Land Council and Australian Plantations Group commenced a major expansion of Acacia mangium plantations to supply woodchips.[69] The operations of Australian Plantations Group (later named Sylvatech) were purchased by Great Southern Group in 2005.[70] In 2006, the operations were reported to be "the largest native-forest clearing project in northern Australia".[71] In September 2007 the Northern Territory Government investigated claims that the company had breached environmental laws,[72] with financial penalties being imposed by the Federal environment department in 2008.[71] Much of the cleared land is used for cattle or monoculture plantations, which the timber company has maintained are an important source of local jobs.[73] Great Southern Plantations collapsed in early 2009, and the Tiwi Land Council has been examining options for future management of the plantations.[74]

The islands have mineral sands on both Melville Island's north coast and the western coast of Bathurst Island.[68] In 2005, Matilda Minerals developed a proposal for mining on the islands, which was assessed and approved in 2006.[75] In 2007 sand mining produced the first shipments of zircon and rutile for export to China.[76] A 7,800 tonnes (17 million pounds) shipment was made in June 2007,[77] with a further 5,000 tonnes (11 million pounds) shipped later that year.[76] Matilda Minerals planned to conduct mining for four years,mineral sands on both Melville Island's north coast and the western coast of Bathurst Island.[68] In 2005, Matilda Minerals developed a proposal for mining on the islands, which was assessed and approved in 2006.[75] In 2007 sand mining produced the first shipments of zircon and rutile for export to China.[76] A 7,800 tonnes (17 million pounds) shipment was made in June 2007,[77] with a further 5,000 tonnes (11 million pounds) shipped later that year.[76] Matilda Minerals planned to conduct mining for four years,[76] but in August 2008, its Tiwi operations were halted, and in October of that year it was placed in administration.[78][79]

In March 2020, Plantation Management Partners (PMP), which manages around 30,000 hectares of acacia mangium trees on the Tiwis, made the decision to delay the year's harvest while demand for woodchips in China was depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[80]