Community and environmental groups say they have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fight a multinational mining giant in its bid to expand in the South West of Western Australia.
- The proposal would allow Alcoa to supply bauxite to its nearby refineries for another 10 years
- Expanding into neighbouring regions would involve clearing 8,700 hectares of land
- Community and environmental groups say they have a rare chance to voice their concerns
Residents of Dwellingup, a small country town 100 kilometres south-east of Perth, are protesting Alcoa Australia’s proposal to expand its Huntly bauxite mine and increase production at its Pinjarra alumina refinery.
It would involve clearing 8,700 hectares of land surrounding Dwellingup, Serpentine and Jarrahdale.
The proposal will go through the highest level of environmental and public scrutiny with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The Dwellingup Discovery Forest Working Group said that provided a rare opportunity for people to voice their concerns.
Spokeswoman Jennie Wise said past approvals were done internally with no chance for public comment.
The last time Alcoa went through a public environmental review was for the Pinjarra refinery in the early 2000s.
“What we really want out of this is for the EPA to review our public submissions and not allow Alcoa to mine bauxite in the region around Dwellingup,” Ms Wise said.
Trail town fights back
Dwellingup is situated among the jarrah forest and is fast positioning itself as a leading trails tourism destination.
“The proposal for one of their two mines directly borders people’s property in Dwellingup and it also encompasses some of our most precious forests,” Ms Wise said.
“We have had enough of Alcoa and the desecration of our forests over the length of the Darling Range for the last 60 years.
The WA Forest Alliance and The Wilderness Society have also joined the fight against the mine.
“As we know, protecting forests is climate action,” Wilderness Society state campaign manager Patrick Gardner said.
“It defies logic that we would not only drag our feet on climate action, but also allow another 8,700 hectares to be knocked flat.
“This is 8,700 hectares of forest that currently acts as a bulwark against climate change and a safe harbour for threatened species and our dwindling biodiversity.”
Miner defends rehabilitation record
In a statement, Alcoa said since it began operations in the South West more than 57 years ago, it had rehabilitated 77 per cent of any land cleared for mining with works ongoing.
“Our rehabilitation program is acknowledged globally as leading practice with self-sustaining jarrah forest ecosystems now thriving where we once mined,” a spokesperson said.
The two new mining regions around Myara and Holyoake will see Alcoa supply bauxite to the Pinjarra and Kwinana refineries for another 10 years.
The public environmental review is expected to take two years and incorporate several opportunities for public comment.