Margaret River declared no go zone for coal mining

West Australian premier Colin Barnett has announced that no mining will occur in the Margaret River region, even if it gains formal approval.

Barnett recently announced his decision at a Perth business luncheon stating that even if LD Operations, who has put forward multiple applications to mine in the area, won its appeal to the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) mining proposal rejection, he would “be prepared to act” to block the appeal, the AFR has reported.

It comes as the coal miner renews its appeal against the original EPA decision, which claimed that the mine would ‘pose a risk to nearby aquifers’.

At the time of the coal mine rejection, LD Operations accused the EPA of selective, inadequate and incomplete consideration” of advice from various government agencies, and called on WA environment minister Bill Marmion to carry out a fully assessment of the projected mine.

Barnett told the luncheon that he does not “know how the appeal will turn out but at the end of the day it is up to elected government to make decisions and it would take a powerful argument to convince me that we should place at risk the standing of the Margaret River.”

The WA premier has previously said that any laws introduced would be similar to those protecting the Swan Valley, but added that “we’re not legislating to stop the mining industry. If we legislate, it’s to protect the unique, tourist and agricultural characteristics of Margaret River.”

In its appeal, LD Operations managing director Peter Ross claimed the EPA decision to label its coal mine ‘environmentally unacceptable’ was so fundamentally flawed that the report can not be relied upon.”

LD Operations called for a more rigorous assessment of the project.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies also hit out at the EPA decision, claiming the report lacked transparency.

“The access for the proponent is extremely restricted and as a result actions are taken by the EPA that we think really give a lack of procedural fairness to the proponent," AMEC chief executive Simon Bennison said.

The EPA report originally stated that “even though some of the significant impacts, or risks, may be presented as being manageable because of their low probability of occurring, the environmental consequences of some low probability event may be so serious, widespread or irreversible that the proposal, taken as a whole, on balance, presents unacceptable risks to important environmental values, and thus makes the proposal environmentally unacceptable."

As the appeal is under investigation local interest groups such as the No COALalition accuse the miner of ignoring environmental restriction placed on it.

No COALalition spokesman Ian Parmenter stated that the miner is rejecting critical advice.

"It’s just farcical, they are just clutching at straws, the potential dangers to the water in this region should rule it out completely, not just for this one mine but from all other proposed mining in this south west corner,” Parmenter said.

Miner Western Coal has also eyed the area, and put in a coal mining application for a lease that runs north of Margaret River and into the Shire of Busselton

The appeals process continues.

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