McArthur River

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This article is about the McArthur River, Northern Territory, Australia. For the McArthur River uranium mine, Saskatchewan, Canada, see McArthur River uranium mine.
McArthur River.jpg
McArthur River at Borraloola, 2011
Name origin: James McArthur
Country Australia
Territory Northern Territory
Region Katherine Region
Source Barkly Tableland
 - location east of Elliott
 - elevation 234 m (768 ft)
Mouth Gulf of Carpentaria
 - location east of Borroloola
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
 - coordinates 15°54′S 136°40′E / 15.900°S 136.667°E / -15.900; 136.667Coordinates: 15°54′S 136°40′E / 15.900°S 136.667°E / -15.900; 136.667
Length 521 km (324 mi)
Basin 20,010 km2 (7,726 sq mi)
 - average 103.6 m3/s (3,659 cu ft/s)
Location in Northern Territory, Australia

The McArthur River is a river in the Northern Territory of Australia which flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria at Port McArthur, opposite the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands. The river was named by Ludwig Leichhardt while he explored the area in 1845.[2] He names the River after James MacArthur and the MacArthur family of Camden who were enthusiastic supporters of his expedition.[3] The McArthur River has significance for the local Aboriginal communities who use it for fishing and other traditional activities.[4]


The McArthur River basin covers 20,010 km2 (7,726 sq mi).[5][6] The basin is situated between the Rosie River catchment to the north, the Limmen Bight River to the east, the Barkly River catchment to the south and the Robinson River catchment to the west. The mean annual runoff is 3,270,000 ML (115,000×10^6 cu ft) per year.[7] The headwaters of the rivers rise on the northern edge of the Barkly Tableland. Tributaries of the McArthur River include Tooganginie Creek, and the Kilgour and Clyde rivers.

The river has a long tidal estuary which extends inland to the town of Borroloola. The estuary is in near pristine condition,[8] and forms part of the Port McArthur Tidal Wetlands System Important Bird Area.[9]

McArthur River zinc mine expansion[edit]

In 2007, plans to expand the McArthur River zinc mine, one of the world's largest zinc mines, were halted by a decision of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. It was found that the approval of the expansion by Mines Minister Chris Natt was invalid.[10] Traditional owners were concerned the proposal, which included a 5.5 km (3.4 mi) river diversion, had serious, long term and irreversible impacts.[11]

In 2008, the case was heard by the Federal Court, which found that the expansion was illegal.[12] In early 2009, the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett formally approved the mines expansion.[4][13] Garrett placed conditions on the project which aimed to reduce the impact on the freshwater sawfish and migratory birds.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Map of McArthur River, NT". Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia. Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Borroloola". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). 8 February 2004. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Place Names Register Extract - Mcarthur River River". NT Place Names Register. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Garrett approves MRM zinc mine expansion". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). 20 February 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Landscape - carbon, nutrients, water and productivity - McArthur River". Australian Natural Resources Atlas. Department of Sustainabililty, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Drainage Divisions" (PDF). Commonwealth of Australia. 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Water resources - Availability - Northern Territory". Australian Natural Resources Atlas. Department of Sustainabililty, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "Estuary Assessment 2000: Basin: McArthur River". Australian Natural Resources Atlas. Department of Sustainabililty, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 20 June 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  9. ^ BirdLife International. (2011). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Port McArthur Tidal Wetlands System. Downloaded from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2012.  on 22/09/2011.
  10. ^ "McArthur River mine expansion 'invalid'". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 30 April 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Current Campaigns » Mining » McArthur River". The Environment Centre of the Northern Territory. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  12. ^ "Territory Govt seeks action on McArthur River Mine". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 18 December 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  13. ^ "McArthur River Mine expansion gets green light". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 20 February 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2011.