Bauxite mining

Mining leases cover almost 10,000 sq km of the Darling Range and the majority of forested walk areas close to Perth, outside of the national parks. Through their bushwalking activities across much of the state forests and reserves over the past half century, bushwalkers have a unique insight into the impacts that bauxite mining and minesite rehabilitation are having on the forests and landscapes of the Darling Range near Perth.

Mining is today expanding across the leases at an unprecedented rate and is expected to continue for another 50 years. More than 60,000 ha (600 sq km) of mature forest will have been cleared and over 60% of the northern jarrah forest and wandoo woodlands close to Perth will have been directly impacted or fragmented by mining, greatly reducing quality bushwalking opportunities in the region. At least 35 known customary bushwalks are likely to be adversely impacted and at least three significant sections of the Bibbulmun Track. Most bushwalkers value walking in high quality, undisturbed natural or near-natural environments which the extensive rehabilitated sites cannot provide.

Bauxite mining and known walk areas in Darling Range near Perth

As Perth’s population grows in coming years the demands will increase for access to recreational bushwalking in natural undisturbed environments near the city. Meanwhile long-popular, traditional bushwalking areas lost to bauxite mining will extend from Lane Poole Reserve in the south (see map), across Mount Solus area and Bannister Hill, to beyond Mount Dale in the north.

The impacts of the mining, especially its environmental and social aftermath, are largely ignored. WA’s Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 (‘FMP’) is failing to adequately consider and protect healthy recreational opportunities such as bushwalking close to the Perth metropolitan area. The parallel operation of the State Agreements with the miners and WA’s Environmental Protection Act, results in conflicting and contradictory priorities and decisions with regard to the goals of conservation and sustainable social opportunities, including for recreation.

Alcoa’s Environmental Review Document (ERD) in support of its currently proposed major acceleration and expansion of mining between Jarrahdale and Dwellingup (see map) was to be released in December 2021 for an 8-week public review period but has been postponed until mid-2022 or beyond. The ERD is required to address Social Surroundings which includes impacts on recreation and traditional bushwalking areas. See EPA info here. The proposed expansion has also been referred to the federal government environmental agency to be assessed as to whether it will be treated as a ‘controlled action’ under the EPBC Act, being a matter of national environmental concern. The proposed Development Envelope would result in an expansion of the mosaic of fragmented jarrah forest across an additional 414 sq km of the Darling Range between Dwellingup and Jarrahdale.

Meanwhile South32 Worsley Alumina also propose to expand their existing bauxite mining in the Mt Saddleback-Marradong-Boddington area. A future re-alignment of a 1.2 km section of the Bibbulmun Track seems certain to be required to bypass the proposed expanded mine area. Following initial public feedback in 2019, the EPA required South32 to prepare an ERD for public review and submissions. The review period closed on 29 August 2022. See also “Bibbulmun Track to be impacted”.

HikeWest continues to encourage greater awareness of the implications of the mining for local bushwalking. We will seek greater transparency and consultation from the State Government and the miners, in the hope that adverse impacts on existing walk areas near Perth will be acknowledged and mitigated. We will also continue to advocate for an end to major expansions of mining in the Darling Range in view of the high risk of a catastrophic long-term environmental outcome.

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