Kimberly mining up 500 per cent

The Kimberly region in Western Australia has experienced a 500 per cent spike in mining activity since 2003.

The surge in activity has sparked calls for a regional land use plan to allot precious areas an environmental think-tank says.

The Pew Environment Group has commissioned the Centre for Conservation Geography to map all current and proposed mining activity in the Kimberly region using freely available government data, the West reported.

The hive of activity has been attributed to onshore oil and gas activity in the Canning Basin along with an increased interest in resources like uranium, bauxite and copper.
Pew project manager Rupert Quinlan said proposed mines are threatening rivers, wetlands and floodplains in the Kimberly.

"If you look at the southern part of the map where the Fitzroy River is, mining exploration basically covers hundreds of kilometres of that river system," he said.

"Across the Kimberley, either current mining or proposed mining impacts on 76 per cent of rivers and wetlands and floodplains – there are very real risks, particularly with some of the open cut types of mines, on groundwater and water quality." Quinlan said.

Quinlan emphasised that he was not suggesting mining should be banned, rather that ad hoc development should cease until a regional land use plan has been formulated.

"We do believe mining does need some boundaries; we need a balance if we're going to be able to get the economic values that mining can deliver and the longer term value of having intact, healthy rivers, rugged landscapes that tourists want to see.

"There are some places that really are too special to allow mining to damage them." Quinlan added.

There are currently a number of proposed developments in the area including the Woodside’s LNG hub at James Price Point, various diamond projects and the Rey Resources coal mine in the Fitzroy Catchment.

The West reported the Kimberly had the potential to become a new coal and uranium mining province with "huge ramifications" from pollution.

According to Environs Kimberley spokesman Martin Pritchard, many companies believe the Kimberly is "open slather".

"When you've got places like the Horizontal Falls and the Fitzroy Valley covered with mining tenements, there's been a significant failure by the WA government," he said.

With the implementation of the $63 million Kimberly Science and Conservation Strategy the region has experienced an "unprecedented expansion" of conservation reserves, this has included four new marine parks and further expansions are still being negotiated with traditional land owners a spokesman for the Department for Premier and Cabinet said.

Rio Tinto already has extensive mining operations underway at their Argyle mine in the Kimberly, which will soon have the world’s largest underground automated system as they plan to implement block caving techniques at the mine.

Gem Diamonds also has its Ellendale operation located in the Kimberly; it is the world’s major source of yellow diamonds.

The company is currently reviewing the resources and the overall mine plan. The mine has recently seen production lift by 28 per cent over the previous period.

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