A SOUTH West anti-mining action group has called on local MP and Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman to back a proposal it claims would protect the Warren-Blackwood electorate from strip mining for bauxite.
Mr Redman recently backed Mines Minister Norman Moore’s blocking of coal mining in a 230-square-kilometre zone stretching from Abbey, on the coast between Busselton and Dunsborough, south to Rosa Brook.
He said the decision reflected the state government’s commitment to ensuring the area is protected from specific risks highlighted in the Environmental Protection Authority’s assessment of the Vasse Coal proposal and represented an “unprecedented level of protection” against coal mining.
However, the Bauxite and Alumina Action Group seized on his support for the coal ban and on Thursday called on him to support changes to the Mining Act aimed at protecting a far greater area from bauxite and iron ore mining, as well as coal.
Spokesman for the group Neil Bartholomaeus said the government had recognised wine production and wine and surf tourism in the Margaret River region justified protection from coal mining.
“This protects the Margaret River aspect of Minister for Agriculture and Food Terry Redman’s new electorate of Warren-Blackwood (the new name and new electoral boundaries come in when next year’s state election if formally called), but not the rest of his seat threatened by strip mining for bauxite,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.
He said Mr Redman, Premier Colin Barnett, Norman Moore and other “relevant ministers” were sent a policy paper, Proposal to protect Agricultural Communities in Western Australia from Mining, prepared with input from “lawyers experienced in mining law”.
The paper, developed over the past year, “reflects the views of various (agriculture, tourism and conservation) public interest groups that have been addressing the threat of mining to agriculture in WA,” Mr Bartholomaeus said.
The policy paper proposes adding a review stage at the front of the mining tenement application process and aims to protect farms of less than 1000ha and require the process to consider the impact of mining on existing agriculture, viticulture, horticulture, tourism and rural residential land uses and on ground and surface water.
Lobby group Residents For Responsible Mining, which sent the policy paper to the Premier and ministers, argues the south west of the state is where most of its food is grown and should be protected from bulk mining for bauxite, coal and iron ore.
Perth-based Bauxite Resources Limited holds exploration licences for 59 tenements in the South West and has applied to explore 2.3 million hectares from Moora, in the wheatbelt north of Perth, to south of Manjimup.
In June the mining warden rejected applications by BRL for an additional three bauxite exploration licences on tenements over state forest and farms south of Bridgetown in Mr Redman’s electorate.
Urbanisation is the greatest challenge to prime agricultural land and a blanket ban on mining across the South West would preclude employment and economic benefits, Mr Redman has said.
“We need to maintain a balanced approach and assess applications on their merits. We have a robust environmental assessment process in place, as the rejection of Vasse Coal’s application demonstrated, and any applications to mine bauxite in the South West will have to undergo that same assessment process.
“Urbanisation remains the greatest challenge to prime agricultural land and will remain so, given the anticipated doubling of the State’s population over the next 40 years.”