EPA refuses to assess new iron ore mine in WA

WA’s Environmental Protection Agency has refused to assess a new iron ore mine proposed for the Helena-Aurora Range.

Polaris Metals wanted to develop the J5 and Bungalbin East iron ore project 100 km north of Southern Cross.

However the EPA said the mine would have significant and irreversible impacts to the integrity of land forms in the region.

It said the mine would impact Aborginal heritage sites and mean the loss of significant flora and fauna vegetation.

“The proposal raises one ore more key environmental factors which the EPA is of the view do not meet the EPA’s environmental objectives and the proponent did not identify any proposal modifications or mitigation measures which would ameliorate the impacts identified,” the authority said.

Polaris, a subsidiary of Mineral Resources owns and operates the nearby Carina iron ore mine.

Mineral Resources chairman Chris Ellisonsaid the EPA’s decision put thousands of jobs at risk.

"The EPA has made its recommendation based only on its view of the environmental issues and it does not take account of the thousands of jobs created and ongoing economic benefits," Ellison said.

"The Government explicitly said in 2010 that the area is available to be considered for mining and the company has progressed its plans in accordance with government policy and with very high environmental standards

"The company is confident that its environmental practices including minimising site disturbance, locating infrastructure away from sensitive areas, back filling pits and its proven rehabilitation expertise can successfully balance environmental requirements with development." 

The EPA has previously said that banded ironstone formation (BIF) ranges have significant natural heritage and scientific value.

EPA chairman Paul Vogel has previously called on the government to act on a promise to establish class-A nature reserves to protect the ranges.

Last month the EPA also refused to assess plans by Sinosteel Mid West Corporation to expand its Blue Hills Mungada East project – located at the Mungada Ridge iron ore formation.

However Vogel has previously denied the EPA’s support for nature reserves means all mining proposals near or over the areas will be dumped.

"They will be assessed on their merits to see if they can meet the EPA's environmental objectives for landforms and biodiversity,” Vogel said.

"This is not setting a precedent, but I think what we're saying is there has been substantial development in the area, we need now to get on with the business of conservation of the last remaining high biodiversity ridge."

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