21/10/2014 - 14:59

Mining and conservation clash in the Mid West

21/10/2014 - 14:59

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Debate over which area in the Mid West should become a Class A nature reserve has heated up as the Environmental Protection Authority increases its calls to preserve an area that Karara Mining wants to mine.

Mining and conservation clash in the Mid West
EPA chair Paul Vogel

 Debate over which area in the Mid West should become a class A nature reserve has heated up as the Environmental Protection Authority increases its calls to preserve an area that Karara Mining wants to mine.

The EPA used the recent release of its annual report to call for greater conservation in Western Australia’s banded iron ranges, which range from the Mid West to the Goldfields region, for the second year in a row.

EPA chair Paul Vogel told Business News the EPA felt compelled to shine a “spotlight” on the Mungada region in the Mid West this year following similar preservation calls for the Mount Manning region in the northern Goldfields last year.

Mr Vogel said 10 mining projects had received development approval since 2009 around the Mungada region, 200 kilometres south east of Geraldton, but agreements to balance development with conservation had lagged.

“Using a sporting analogy ... Development 10 - Conservation 0,” Mr Vogel said.

He said the state government had allowed Karara Mining, a joint venture between Gindalbie Metals and Chinese operators AnSteel, to come up with an alternative conservation area after the EPA suggested it give up its tenements on Mungada Ridge for a class A nature reserve.

Karara Mining is considering mining the Mungada Ridge, which its tenements cover as part of its proposed Mungada iron project, which is separate to the much larger Karara iron ore project.

 In a statement to Business News from Karara Mining, a spokesman said Karara supported the development of class A reserves that align with the prospectivity values of the area and maintain functional ecosystems.

“To date seven tenements have been relinquished as part of our broader environmental offsets package to allow the Western Australian government to establish reserves. This demonstrates Karara Mining’s commitment to balancing economic development with environmental consideration outcomes in the areas that we operate,” the spokesman said.

Karara disputed Mr Vogel’s claims Mungada Ridge was the best option for a class A reserve.

While Karara has yet to submit a proposal to mine Mungada Ridge, the spokesman said new scientific and environmental information suggested the landscape values were not unique and were well represented elsewhere in the region, suggesting an alternative area could be preserved.

Mr Vogel said he had not been given any compelling evidence of a better biodiversity conservation outcome in the Mid West than the Mungada Ridge as originally agreed.

“That being the case we should move to secure the Mungada Ridge into the conservation estate,” he said.

Karara said it was continuing to assess the merit of mining the Mungada Ridge area while ensuring environmental values of the broader region were maintained.

“This is a matter the government will have to grapple with. The balance between conservation and development has not yet been achieved in that region and we would continue to support the government’s commitment to establish that a class nature reserve,” Mr Vogel said.

In August Gindalbie Metals wrote down the carrying value of its 48 per cent share in the Ansteel-operated Karara iron ore project by $585.6 million to zero due to lower than expected production levels, the lower iron ore price and the higher Australian dollar exchange rate.

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