Under a new state exemption mining operations will be prohibited within a 72sq km radius around Western Australia’s Horizontal Falls.
The West reported that the natural wonder located north-east of Derby attracts over 20,000 tourists a year and will now be more protected then Australia’s national parks.
Mines and petroleum minister Norman Moore said that exploration applications in the area had been voluntarily withdrawn by Pegasus Metals, Koolan Iron Ore and Kimminco "as a show of support for the state's move to protect the falls" the Australian reported.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum does not have the right to repeal exploration leases once approved.
The decision comes after the department approved Pegasus Metals to carry out drilling works in 2011 on a tenement just 4.3km north-west of the site.
However, after discussions between the department and Pegasus, the company’s CEO Michael Fotios last month said they would voluntarily give up the permit.
Adding that Pegasus had not intended to explore for copper in the area and that future exploration operations would be focussed further inland.
Pegasus operates the McLarty Range copper project located about 10km from the falls.
The AFR reported that Pegasus Metals had defined a 60km copper, gold, silver and zinc deposit over its 5000 sq km of tenements in the McLarty Range.
In a presentation lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange on Monday Pegasus described the McLarty project as “the big prize”.
The Horizontal Waterfalls is the result of massive tidal movements rushing through narrow gaps between the cliffs and has been described by renowned naturalist David Attenborough as one the world’s greatest wonders.
Moore announced that the Horizontal Falls have been nominated for inclusion on the Register of State Geoheritage Sites.