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Margaret River too precious to mine

THE pristine winery region of Margaret River will be able to remain just that after Western Australian Environment Minister Bill Marmion rejected a proposal for the Vasse underground coal project.

Lauren Barrett
Margaret River too precious to mine

The mine proposed by LD Operations was expected to produce 1.2 million tonnes per annum of coal over a 20-year mine life.

Marmion announced he would uphold the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision to reject the mine, which was to be built northeast of Margaret River.

Marmion said his main concern was that the project posed serious environmental risks.

“In making my determination, I’ve decided it’s likely there would be significant impacts or risks from the proposed mine on the Leederville and Sue aquifers and on significant environmental values which these aquifers support,” he said.

“Margaret River is a unique region with important environmental values which should be protected.

“From an environmental perspective, this project is too risky.”

In March this year the EPA effectively said no to the proposal, claiming the project was unacceptable because it posed serious risks to important environmental values in Margaret River.

Five appeals were received to the EPA’s decision, including one from the proponent.

After considering the appeals and a report from the appeals committee, Marmion decided the conclusions of the EPA were justified, noting the uncertainty of risks to surface and groundwater in the Margaret River region.

The board and pillar project was expected to have a surface footprint of approximately 40ha.

Marmion’s announcement will be welcomed by community groups opposing the project claiming it would harm Margaret River’s wine industry and threaten ecosystems.

However, the proposal’s rejection is a blow for LDO, with the company’s managing director Peter Ross labelling Marmion’s decision as “disappointing.”

“The minister’s decision goes against the advice of government agencies and independent experts that further information is needed before the proposal’s environmental acceptability can be determined,” Ross said.

“LDO respectfully believe the minister’s decision supports a flawed assessment process, apparent dismissal of available evidence from government agencies and independent experts, and a lack of evidence to support the Environmental Protection Authority’s categorisation of the proposal.”

LDO will now consider its rights with regards to the minister’s decision, while Marmion will consult with other relevant decision-making authorities over whether or not the proposal for the mine could be implemented based on broader social and economic factors.

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