Bushwalking & Mining - Mostly Out of Sight
Northern Darling Range Destined for Bauxite Strip-Mining
Much of the northern Darling Range across the jarrah forests
and wandoo woodlands, including many of the areas Perth-based Bushwalkers
regularly walk outside of the National Parks, is destined eventually
to be strip-mined for bauxite. The affected bushwalking areas will stretch
from Bannister Hill in the south to beyond Mt Dale in the north. See
The low-grade bauxite ore which produces alumina is recovered
from below the thin (1-2m), laterite caprock that covers most of the
hill-tops and low ridges across the Darling Range, including Bannister
The mature forest and the laterite "pods", with
their bounding "breakaway" landscape, are removed and then
"rehabilitated" after mining with the beginnings of a young
replacement forest on the restored topsoil. The mined areas expand at
a rate of around 9.3 sq km per year.
(Compilation: Dave Osborne;
A Strong but Unsuccessful Campaign
About 35 years ago, conservationists (with the support
of some of our own members) led a strong but unsuccessful campaign and
Class Action challenge to a major expansion of the bauxite mining which
had commenced in 1963 at Jarrahdale.
It seems unlikely in today's more conservation conscious
society that such vast tracts of breakaway landscapes and mature forest
close to Perth would be given up by Government to mining. But the Agreements
with the miners, signed in that previous era have had to be honoured
by subsequent State Governments.
Access to Traditional Bushwalking Areas Denied
As mining operations expand further over coming years,
walkers will get used to seeing mining expand into new areas. Parts
of many walk areas such as Bannister Hill will be mined. Access to some
walk areas will be lost during, and for years after, the mining operations
and rehabilitation work is completed, while new forest is
established on the new landscape.
As bushwalkers, most of us resent worldly intrusions and
distractions from the wonderful escape that bushwalking provides from
lifes stresses. But can we, and should we, as bushwalkers be doing
more, knowing that large areas of our local walking environment are
to be changed forever?
(Compilation: Dave Osborne; GoogleEarth Imagery)
What Can We Bushwalkers Do?
Perhaps in this situation the important things the local
bushwalking community must do are:
i. Be Aware & Knowledgeable
We must aim for the best possible understanding of what and
where the impacts on walking areas have been, and will be. We need
to document and articulate the impacts as no one else will do that
for us. We cannot hope to improve outcomes for bushwalking if impacts
remain vague and under-recognised.
ii. Be Attentive & Responsive - Respond
to any Plans affecting our walk areas whenever they come available
for public comment via the EPA or others. Prior examples include the
major Worsley Expansion Plan approved in 2008; and the Forest Management
Plans of 2004-2013 and 2014-2023, through which proposed National
Park, Nature Reserves and Conservation Park boundaries, including
Gyngoorda Reserve at Bannister Hill, were adjusted partly to accommodate
evolving mining plans.
iii. Educate Communicate directly
with those who can most influence outcomes, particularly the miners
themselves, and the Mining and Management Program Liaison Group (MMPLG;
and its sub-committees) so they are aware of the specific effects
on specific bushwalking areas. In turn be aware of the potential of
their site rehabilitation efforts to lessen some of the impacts.
iv. Monitor & Liaise - Beyond educating,
monitor the spreading impacts of the mining on our activities, so
we can liaise with the miners and the MMPLG in an ongoing, constructive
(if not a collaborative) way.
For a full copy of the column see Dave
Column - September 2013 Venturer.