WA bans coal mining in Margaret River region

West Australian mines minister Norman Moore has declared there will be no coal mining in the State's Margaret River region.

West Australian mines minister Norman Moore has declared there will be no coal mining in the State's Margaret River region.

It finally came after fierce debate within WA that threatened to split the Barnett led government.

Issues came to a head last year following the rejection of LD Operations' proposed Vasse coal exploration project.

Although it was initially rejected by the EPA after fierce community and environmentalist opposition, the miner fought the ruling.

This led to a backlash against mining in the wine growing region and Colin Barnett's proposal for a blanket ban on all mining in the region.

At the time he said "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.

However Moore rejected Barnett's comments, and dismissed the notion that the push that mining in the region is unwelcome, despite the rejection of exploration by Western Coal and LD Operations.

However as Moore winds down his time in office he has taken a stance against mining operations in the region.

The WA Government has terminated all pending applications for coal exploration within a 230 kilometre square zone.

Moore said it came after the EPA indicated that coal mining, and LD Operations exploration in the region poses "an unacceptable environmental risk", particularly to aquifers.

"The Government has now decided that the advice should also be applied to the whole of the coal mineralisation extending through the identified 230-square kilometre zone and applications for coal exploration or mining should not be supported," he said.

"This decision sends a signal to the industry – applications will not be accepted to explore for or mine coal in this area."

Four coal applications will be terminated; five have already been withdrawn by the applicants.

According to the government "there are nine granted mineral titles within this zone, including the seven granted Vasse mining leases. If any of these titleholders lodge a coal mining proposal, it will be refused on the ground of potential groundwater impacts".

The minister is able to make the blanket ban under the Mining Act of 1978 which allows Moore to terminate or refuse applications if the Minister is satisfied on reasonable grounds that it is in the public interest to do so.

This provision will be invoked if explorers are unwilling to withdraw their coal applications.

However, it is only able to reject applications, and can not withdraw previously granted titles.

"I would emphasise that this decision is based on unique and local circumstances existing only in the Capes region. It will provide some future certainty for local residents and landowners without adding unnecessary sovereign risk to the State’s $107billion resources sector," he said.

Moore added that any application for exploration in the region other than coal would be reviewed on their own merit.

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