THE WA Government has backed a strategic framework for the long-term sustainable development of the Mid-West iron-ore industry.
The Government said the framework would deliver the best possible outcome for the State by maintaining a balance between the development of an iron-ore industry and the conservation needs of the region.
It followed a strategic review of the mining and biodiversity values of the banded iron ranges of the Mid-West and Goldfields undertaken by the Department of Industry and Resources (DOIR) and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).
The framework identified areas where the State Government favoured mining development, preferred sites for conservation and other areas that required further investigation, according to the Government.
The unique banded iron formations ranges in the Mid-West were believed to contain between $50-80billion in mineral resources. This quantity could sustain an iron ore industry with annual exports of 50-90 million tonnes, enough to underpin the development of a new port at Oakajee.
The ranges also had significant biodiversity value due to their unique geology, soils and relative isolation and they hosted a number of rare and restricted plant species and communities.
Since 2002, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has completed formal assessments on three mining proposals in the region and is currently working on another three.
There are a further three at the feasibility stage and 25 prospects under exploration.
Under the Environmental Protection Act, the EPA is limited to assessing only the environmental aspects of the proposals, while the State Government is responsible for the assessment of the broader issues of sustainability, environmental, economic and social costs and benefits.