Mining activity in protected forests WA, reserves approved 33 times in 5 years
Fortescue applied for four exploration leases in March this year near Bridgetown as the company was looking for lithium.
Rio Tinto has also applied for 10 exploration leases, covering 107,000 hectares of land, inland from Keysbrook and up to Collie in search of lithium and nickel.
The company has invested heavily in the raw material after buying an $825 million lithium mine in Argentina in March.
There are environmental concerns in WA over Rio Tinto exploration leases that cover parts of the 250 kilometer long Northern Jarrah Forest, which according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is in danger of ecological collapse on a warming planet, which itself lies in the world’s only region of Australia. biodiversity hotspot out of 25 in the world.
A coalition of environmental groups ranging from community organizations to larger nonprofits like the Conservation Council, the Wilderness Society and the WA Forest Alliance have opposed exploration leases offered by Rio Tinto through of the State Mining Managers Court.
The South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council and three local governments also objected, but this is how the company engages with them because the Guardian’s Tribunal is used almost as a quasi-consultative process.
Shire of Waroona chairman Mike Walmsley said he filed an objection to several leases, including a water catchment area, due to a lack of information on how exploration would be carried out.
Conservationists are clear in their concerns and protested Rio Tinto’s demands to explore the northern Jarrah forest – home to many unique and endangered species such as quokkas, black cockatoos, woylies and numbats – on Friday outside Perth Central Courthouse.
A WA Forest Alliance spokesperson said it was sending a clear message to Rio and the state government that there was no social license for mining in the forest.
“Any attempt by Rio Tinto to clear and harvest these valuable and threatened forests will be violently opposed,” they said.
“The State of the Environment Report confirmed our worst fears about the state of our natural world and the successive failures to protect it. And people have had enough.
“We cannot allow further clearing of native forests and we will not allow Rio Tinto to gain a foothold in the valuable remaining ecosystems of the Jarrah Forest.”
Environmentalists are concerned about the cumulative impact of multiple operations in the northern Jarrah forest which is already being surface mined by Alcoa and South32 for bauxite, a rock with a high aluminum content.
Alcoa and South32, both of which have decades-long agreements with the state to harvest large tracts of forest, are currently applying for environmental clearances to expand operations and clear a combined 13,672 hectares of trees and native vegetation.
Director Genevieve Cleary raised concerns on Friday about how an opponent of Rio Tinto’s plans inadvertently emailed the mines department rather than other opponents saying he was “brilliant” to blocking the system with calls.
“It’s an indication to me that some of the naysayers or at least one of the naysayers just seems bent on jamming the system,” she said. “And that’s no way to run the court.”
Many environmental objectors are expected to withdraw their appeals and leave it to the larger organizations to continue going through director’s court.
A Rio Tinto spokeswoman said any future exploration, if granted, would be done with “the company’s commitment to sound environmental management and stewardship and in consultation with community stakeholders.”
“The application areas do not contain or overlap any reserves or conservation areas with the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists,” she said.
IUCN has a ‘green list’ of conservation areas that are certified by the organization as achieving continuous results for people and nature in an equitable and efficient way.
There are only four Australian sites on the green list.
One of Rio’s leases straddles Wellington National Park near Collie. Many of the leases requested by the mining company cover areas of high conservation value.
Even if Rio gets approval for its exploration leases, that doesn’t mean the company will use the entire application area.
WA has been a laggard in improving the conservation status of many of its state forests for decades.
In the latest Forest Management Plan, only five of the proposed 265 reserve upgrades have been completed.
An end-of-term review of the last management plan indicated that there were several reasons for this.
“The reasons are primarily due to…identified mineral resources and mineral exploration, State Agreement Act mining tenant rights, and prioritization of resources to meet government priorities for land and water reservations. conservation elsewhere in the state,” he said.