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Plaudits for cooperative environmental effort

CHANGING attitudes within the mining sector and the regulatory requirements to rehabilitate mining sites is funding the research and protection of WA’s native flora and fauna.

The Kings Park Botanical Gardens Authority is working closely with the mining industry in the development of environmental excellence practices.

According to Kings Park Botanic Gardens director of science Kingsley Dixon, the mining industry has been a major contributor toward funding research into restoration ecology.

“We are very focused at the Botanic Gardens on trying to understand how to best manage and grow Western Australian and Australian native plants,” Mr Dixon said.

“And because the mining companies in this State mine across such broad landscapes, involving many different species, they have been ideal partners in trying to understand and conserve and manage our flora better.

“Without them we would be a lot poorer in terms of our knowledge of how to build and manage ecosystems.”

The efforts of the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority have not gone unnoticed. Last year the authority won the coveted Golden Gecko Award for restoration work on Airlie Island.

The award recognises firms for environmental excellence in the resource sector.

Clients of Kings Park include Anaconda Nickel Limited, Alcoa, BHP Billiton and Argyle Diamonds.

“We are interested in those companies that are committed to environmental excellence by showing that they wish to restore the native vegetation which was removed during the mining operation,” Mr Dixon said.

“By the time they reach us they are well down the pathway of realising that to do well in this century is about being good environmental citizens as well.”

He said Alcoa stood out as being a world leader in environmental protection.

“Alcoa doesn’t need to, but it now aspires to 100 per cent replacement of its biological diversity – pretty outstanding stuff,” Mr Dixon said.

“I don’t think there is a miner in the world that aspires to that level of replacement. It is one of the top environmental mining companies in the world.”

Mr Dixon is equally full of praise for the work BHP Billiton is doing at its Beenup titanium mineral sands mine. BHP Billiton is believed to be spending about $50 million on rehabilitating the defunct mine.

“The Beenup project is one where they are really committed to do well and not just ride on the back of awards,” he said.

But Mr Dixon said the Park Board Authority drew the line at helping miners who wanted to obtain a mining lease, preferring to leave the policing of the industry to the Department of Environmental Protection.

“We are very clear we don’t actually work with any mining company that needs our input to get a mining lease,” he said.

“The mining company has to demonstrate its own initiative and management of best practice by getting its mining planning approved without our input.

“Otherwise what would happen is that we would be utilised to facilitate mining leases we would not necessarily agree with.

“We are only interested in doing good sites to better help our industries to become better environmental citizens. If they don’t want to become good environmental citizens then that’s up to other protestors, and there are lots of regulators in the public sector that will regulate those people.”

Not every mining company fits into the Botanical Gardens’ ethos, however.

Mr Dixon said miners in the State’s Pilbara region, in particular, were not sufficiently forward thinking when it came to environmental protection.

“Interestingly enough the Pilbara miners seem to think they can do it all without any help,” he said.

“We get pretty cheesed off with their lack of real commitment to excellence compared with a company like Alcoa. They’ve got to join us in the new century.”

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