WA Government to complete closure of ex-mining town Wittenoom

Wittenoom. Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The Western Australian Government is finalising the closure of Wittenoom, the former town known for its asbestos mining activity between the 1930s and 1960s.

The area, which is highly contaminated, has only three remaining residents.

Wittenoom is considered unfit for human habitation due to the prevalence of harmful crocidolite (also called blue asbestos) in the area.

The Western Australian Government removed Wittenoom’s status as a town in 2007 and it can no longer be found on maps or road signs.

It also has not had an electricity supply on the power grid for over a decade. There are also signs around the area to warn the public of the risks involved, as it tends to attract tourists due to its reputation.

The Wittenoom asbestos management area incorporates the former town, Wittenoom Gorge and Joffre Floodplain, encompassing around 46,840 hectares of land.

The WA Government will introduce the Wittenoom Closure Bill 2019 to enable the compulsory acquisition of the last 17 remaining private lots (owned by five landowners, including the three residents) in the townsite. Current legislation only allows the state to compulsorily acquire property for public works.

“Sadly the few remaining residents and tourists remain in the highest risk user groups from a litany of cancers and lung diseases, and the state simply cannot in good conscience allow the status quo to continue any longer,” said Treasurer and Minister for Finance, Energy and Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt.

“While the area is one of natural beauty it is tragically also deadly, and even if the state committed billions of dollars to a clean-up project it is virtually impossible that the area will ever be safe for human habitation.”

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