The Environmental Protection Authority has recommended strict conditional approval of Doral Mineral Sands’ proposed Yoongarillup project near Bussleton.
Doral has proposed to mine mineral sands from several open-cut pits using dry mining techniques, and plans to extract 4 million tonnes of ore to produce 256,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate over three years.
The proposal by Doral shows the Japanese-owned group continues to explore growth opportunities in Western Australia despite a tough period that has affected its two existing local operations.
In its annual report for the year ending December 31, the Iwatani Corporation subsidiary said 2014 was a very challenging year due to a strong Australian dollar in the first half of the year and weakening prices due to downstream markets.
"Both sales and profits were below expectations and the prior year," the company said reflecting on a 40 per cent fall in revenue.
The group had a $15.4 million loss in calendar 2014, following on from a $1.6 million loss the previous year," the company said.
"As a consequence of weaker sales, Doral Fused Materials continued at a low production rate.
"In August it was decided to suspend fused alumina production at Doral Fused Materials with final production occurring in December.
"Mining at Doral Mineral Sands was suspended for 4 months from April to August due to lack of sales of ilmenite products.
"Mining was resumed once offtake agreements had been established."
The proposed Yoongarillup project, located 17 kilometres south-east of Bussleton, includes the construction of offices, workshops, a laydown area, roads, ore processing facilities, solar evaporation ponds, the backfilling of mined pits and the rehabilitation and decommissioning of disturbed areas.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the proposal was tested against several key factors, including the potential impacts on flora, vegetation and terrestrial fauna, as well as potential noise and dust pollution, and the success of rehabilitating the area following the mine’s decommissioning.
Dr Vogel said eight conditions had been recommended, including the need for a flora and vegetation and monitoring plan that involves management and contingency actions to mitigate the loss of vegetation to 8.9 hectares.
The proposed mine site will have a total ground disturbance of 95.7ha, with the outstanding 86.8ha of disturbance area on previously-cleared land.
“While the proposal is on mining tenements, it is also located within the State Forest and in a high biodiversity area,” Dr Vogel said.
“Prior to any clearing, the proponent will need to submit a clearing and rehabilitation plan to the office of the EPA to ensure clearing and mining is undertaken in stages to allow progressive rehabilitation.
“The proponent will also need to postpone clearing during the Black Cockatoos’ breeding season.”
He also said noise and dust created during the mining operation would be regulated by the Department of Environment Regulation.
“The management plan proposed by the company will be scrutinised by the DER to ensure it, and their operations, meet the appropriate noise and dust standards,” Dr Vogel said.
The EPA said it considered the impact of clearing the 8.9ha of Whicher Scarp native forest ecosystem against a proposed addition of 2,370ha of the same ecosystem into the Whicher national Park, under the Forest Management Plan 2014-23.