Mining unique Banded Iron Formations would cause irreversible environmental impacts - EPA

Release date: 
28 June 2017

Two proposals to mine significant Banded Iron Formations (BIFs) would cause permanent and irreversible environmental impacts, with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) today recommending against their approval.

The EPA’s recommendations that Mineral Resources Limited’s Jackson 5 and Bungalbin East Iron Ore Project in the Yilgarn area and Sinosteel Midwest Corporation’s Blue Hills Mungada East Expansion in the Midwest are both environmentally unacceptable are now with the Minister for Environment for a final decision.

EPA Chairman Dr Tom Hatton said BIFs were highly biodiverse ranges set in predominantly flat landscapes and amongst the oldest landforms on earth, providing specialised habitats for plants, animals and ecological communities. Once mined, restoration of the impacted landforms would not be possible.

“These proposals would significantly and permanently impact the environmental integrity of distinctive formations supporting some of the highest biodiversity and social values in their respective regions,” Dr Hatton said.

“As high points in the landscape, they are cooler and wetter than the surrounding plains, acting as ‘terrestrial island’ habitats for unique and rare plants and animals.”

The two separate EPA assessments involved site visits, extensive public consultation, and careful analysis of the potential impacts on multiple environmental factors before concluding that overall, the proposals were environmentally unacceptable and should not be implemented.

Jackson 5 and Bungalbin East Iron Ore Project

The Jackson 5 and Bungalbin East Iron Ore Project proposes to construct and operate two new iron ore mines and associated infrastructure about 100 kilometres north of Southern Cross in the Shire of Yilgarn. The proposed mining areas would be located on BIF landforms on the Helena-Aurora Range located within the Mount Manning - Helena-Aurora Ranges Conservation Park.

The EPA, which received 1487 public submissions during an eight-week consultation period, examined the proposal against seven key environmental factors - Flora and Vegetation, Subterranean Fauna, Terrestrial Fauna, Hydrological Processes, Inland Waters Environmental Quality, Social Surroundings and Landforms. For further information, please view EPA report 1599 at http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/proposals/jackson-5-and-bungalbin-east-iron-ore-project-0

As the proposal is being assessed under the Commonwealth Bilateral Agreement, the Commonwealth Minister for Environment will also need to make a decision on the proposal’s future.

Blue Hills Mungada East Expansion

The Blue Hills Mungada East Expansion proposes to expand its existing hematite mining operations on the Mungada Ridge, 66 kilometres north-east of Perenjori. The project includes a mine pit, waste rock dump, processing infrastructure area and haul and access roads.

Seven public submissions were provided to the EPA during the six-week consultation period, with the independent authority assessing the environmental acceptability of the proposal against four key environmental factors - Landforms, Flora and Vegetation, Terrestrial Fauna and Social Surroundings. EPA Report 1598 is available at http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/proposals/blue-hills-mungada-east-expansion-0

Dr Hatton said despite efforts by both proponents to mitigate potential impacts, including revising the proposals to minimise the disturbance footprints, the independent board had recommended neither proposal should be implemented.

The EPA’s reports to the Minister for Environment are now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing 12 July, 2017. Appeals are administered independently by the Appeals Convenor and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au

Following consultation with other decision-making authorities, the Minister for Environment will make the final decision.

Media Contact: Fiona Adolph 0400 866 450