28/06/2017 - 10:34

EPA rejects MinRes, Sinosteel iron ore mines

28/06/2017 - 10:34


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The environmental watchdog has recommended rejection of two proposals to mine iron ore in Western Australia because they would cause irreversible damage to the land.

Chris Ellison says 1,500 jobs would be lost if MinRes's new iron ore plans don't get the green light.

The environmental watchdog has recommended rejection of two proposals to mine iron ore in Western Australia because they would cause irreversible damage to the land.

The Environmental Protection Authority said today Mineral Resources' Jackson 5 and Bungalbin East iron ore project and Sinosteel Midwest Corporation’s Blue Hills Mungada East expansion project, both located in the Mid West, were both environmentally unacceptable.

MinRes was to construct and operate two new iron ore mines and associated infrastructure about 100 kilometres north of Southern Cross.

The new pits are designed to enable the company to sustain production from its operations in the region.

EPA chairman Tom Hatton said despite efforts by both companies to mitigate potential impacts, including revising the proposals to minimise the disturbance footprints, the independent board had recommended neither proposal should be implemented.

The recommendation has been submitted to the state and federal ministers for environment for a final decision.

The decision is the latest in a long-running saga between the EPA and MinRes over the proposed iron ore mines, with the miner’s chief executive, Chris Ellison, arguing since 2014 that the project would bring 1,500 more jobs to the Mid West.

In December 2014, the EPA classified the project as environmentally unacceptable, at which point MinRes called for a public environmental review to allow stakeholders to take into account the economic benefits of the jobs it would create.

Sinosteel, meanwhile, wants to expand its existing mothballed hematite mining operations on the Mungada Ridge, located about 60km north-east of Perenjori.

The project includes a mine pit, waste rock dump, processing infrastructure area and haul and access roads.

For Sinosteel, the decision is just the latest of many rejections by the EPA for Blue Hills, with the authority knocking back the proposal since late 2014.

Dr Hatton said the banded iron formations were highly bio-diverse ranges set in predominantly flat landscapes and amongst the oldest landforms on earth, providing specialised habitats for plants, animals and ecological communities.

“Once mined, restoration of the impacted landforms would not be possible,” Dr Hatton said.

“These proposals would significantly and permanently impact the environmental integrity of distinctive formations supporting some of the highest biodiversity and social values in their respective regions.

“As high points in the landscape, they are cooler and wetter than the surrounding plains, acting as ‘terrestrial island’ habitats for unique and rare plants and animals.”

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia natural resources manager Kane Moyle said the EPA’s decision was disappointing given the proposals represented a “small fraction of disturbance to the total landform”.

“The final decision on approval of the two projects now lies with the minister for environment, where consideration of the respective social, economic, and environmental merits will be considered,” he said.

“CME will seek to engage with government to ensure environmental outcomes are managed whilst the economic benefits for the state can materialise.”


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