01/12/2014 - 15:55

EPA labels Yilgarn mine proposal 'environmentally unacceptable'

01/12/2014 - 15:55

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In its latest push for greater conservation in mining regions, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified a proposed Mineral Resources iron ore project in the Yilgarn as 'environmentally unacceptable'.

In its latest push for greater conservation in mining regions, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified a proposed Mineral Resources iron ore project in the Yilgarn as 'environmentally unacceptable'.

The EPA announced yesterday it had classified the proposed project near Southern Cross as falling under the environmentally unacceptable category of review (API-B), rather than under a public environmental review (PER) category for projects with major significance.

The step is the latest in a series of actions by the environmental watchdog aimed at greater preservation and conservation in proposed mining areas.

In the Yilgarn's adjoining Mid West region east of Geraldton the EPA  rejected Sinosteel Midwest Corporation’s new mine pit at its Blue Hills Mungada East project last month and increased its calls in October to preserve Mungada Ridge, an area Karara Mining had proposed a new iron project.

A Mineral Resources spokesman said it was disappointed the EPA was not pursuing a public environmental review, which would have allowed debate between all stakeholders.

The spokesman said the EPA's classification was not appropriate as the project was of major economic significance.

He said a PER would take into account the economic benefits from 1,423 full time positions that would be created in the proposed mine's construction and 1,992 positions post 2016 in its operations phase.

In its latest quarterly report, Mineral Resources said the company was aware the proposed satellite mines, called J5 and Bungalbin East Iron Ore Project, about 100 kilometres north of Southern Cross, was on reserved land, but that it had pursued strong environmental management systems.

In August, Mineral Resources managing director Chris Ellison said in a statement the company was at the forefront of developing new procedures to help position it as an industry leader in environmental management.

Mineral Resources subsidiary, Polaris Metals, was due to develop the new iron ore project.

The EPA said in its chairman’s determination today that the development presented potential significant impacts to the integrity of the Helena and Aurora range, loss of conservation of significant flora and fauna, and impact to Aboriginal heritage sites.

In a brief explanation of the decision, the EPA said the miner did not identify any proposal modifications or mitigation measures that would ameliorate those impacts.

“The proposal raises one or more key environmental factors which the EPA is of the view do not meet the EPA’s environmental objectives,” the determination said.

In September, while Mineral Resources was still awaiting a level of assessment to be set by the EPA for the proposed J5 and Bungalbin East project, it said in a statement that it was confident its environmental practices could be successful in developing and rehabilitating the proposed mine.

“The company is confident that its practices including minimising site disturbance, locating infrastructure systems to ensure it fulfils its legislative requirements and is also developing new initiatives to help position the company as an industry leader in environmental management,” the statement said.

One month earlier, Polaris Metals announced it had partnered with Curtin University’s environmental biology group to develop an understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and the environment in the Yilgarn region.

Mineral Resources managing director Chris Ellison said the company embraced the EPA assessment process and believed mining could co-exist with the environment while generating 1,500 full-time equivalent mining and related positions in the Yilgarn from the planned construction phase.

It is focused on expanding its mine sites to supplement and expand the life of its Carina hub in the Yilgarn, where its main mine currently produces up to half the company's iron ore exports.

Five months ago, Mineral Resources announced it had invested $70 million in six new trains in Carina and had plans to further develop the region

Polaris Metals' environmental partnership led by Curtin Grant Wardell-Johnson is aimed at improving the effectiveness of biodiversity data research for Polaris’s mining proposals and the state’s mining industry.

“The research will provide predictive models and maps of flora and vegetation in the region in relation to the environment, informing environmental assessments which rely on the portrayal of spatially explicit data,” Dr Wardell-Johnson said.

“This will help the mining industry speed up the assessment process, while understanding the relationship between the patters of extraordinarily rich flora in the area and appropriate future rehabilitation.”

The government will now consider the EPA’s determination on the proposed J5 and Bungalbin East project.

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