A new mineral sands mine in the southwest has been recommended for strict conditional approval by the Environmental Protection Authority.
The Yoongarillup Mineral Sands Project, 17 kilometres southeast of Busselton, includes the construction of offices, workshops, a laydown area, roads, ore processing facilities, solar evaporation ponds, the backfilling of mined pits and the rehabilitation and decommissioning of disturbed areas.
Doral Mineral Sands Pty Ltd’s proposal, which was assessed at the highest level of a Public Environmental Review, is expected to extract 4,000,000 tonnes of ore to produce 256,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) over three years.
Ore from the deposit will be mined from a series of open-cut pits using dry mining techniques, which requires the dewatering of groundwater. The project will clear 8.9 hectares (ha) of Whicher Scarp native forest ecosystem located in State Forest with the remaining 88 ha of the ground disturbance area located on cleared farmland.
EPA Chairman Dr Paul Vogel said several key environmental factors had been examined, with a suite of conditions recommended to address potential impacts to the environment.
“The EPA tested this proposal against several key factors including the potential impacts on flora, vegetation and terrestrial fauna, as well as the potential for noise and dust and the success of rehabilitating the area following the decommissioning of the mine,” Dr Vogel said.
He said eight stringent conditions had been recommended, including the need for a Flora and Vegetation monitoring plan that stipulates management and contingency actions to constrain the loss of vegetation to 8.9 ha.
“While the proposal is on mining tenements, it is also located within State Forest and in a high biodiversity area. Prior to any clearing, the proponent will need to submit a Clearing and Rehabilitation Plan to the Office of the EPA to ensure clearing and mining is undertaken in stages to allow progressive rehabilitation,” he said.
“The proponent will also need to postpone clearing during the Black Cockatoos’ breeding season.”
Dr Vogel said noise and dust created during the three-year mining operation would be regulated by the Department of Environment Regulation.
“The management plan proposed by the company will be scrutinised by the DER to ensure it, and their operations, meet the appropriate noise and dust standards,” he said.
Importantly, the EPA considered the relative impact of clearing 8.9 ha of Whicher Scarp native forest ecosystem in the context of the proposed addition of 2,370 ha of this ecosystem into the Whicher National Park under the Forest Management Plan 2014-23.
“Acting on this proposed addition to the national park will help ensure the ongoing conservation and protection of this important native forest ecosystem,” Dr Vogel said.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing July 27, 2015. Appeals are administered independently by the Appeals Convenor and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au The Minister for Environment will make the final decision.
Under the Assessment Bilateral Agreement, the EPA’s report has also been provided to the Commonwealth Minister for Environment who will make a decision as to whether or not the proposal should be approved under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This is separate from any Western Australia approval that may be required.
EPA Report 1552 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au
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