The sea wall that separates an iron ore mine on Cockatoo Island from the Kimberley waters is at risk of collapse, after liquidators of Pluton Resources turned off the pumps which keep the pit from filling with water.
According to the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum, the iron ore pit is currently filling with water and will be full within the week.
“It is anticipated that at current flow rates, the pit will be full by the end of this month,” the department said in a statement.
Pluton liquidators Pitcher Partners ceased pumping on October 16, due to a lack of funding.
Experts have warned that once the pit fills with water, the sea wall could collapse.
The island’s traditional owners, the Dambimangari people, are concerned that this will see sediment released across coral reefs.
“This could have all been avoided if the Department of Mines had taken action as requested by the traditional owners several months ago,” said Peter McCumstie, chief executive of the Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation, in a comment to the ABC.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum’s director of operations Marnie Leybourne said in a statement that the department was “working with the company, its liquidators and other government departments to ensure all safety, financial and environmental risks are well understood and managed properly”.
The department confirmed it had no immediate plans to intervene in the situation.
Potential buyers are looking into the Cockatoo Island mine, as it is home to some of the highest grade iron ore in the world. However, both the collapse of the sea wall and the mine’s inundation with water could make it difficult to find a buyer.