Issues for Bushwalkers
 

Bushwalking & Mining - Mostly Out of Sight & Mined

The below is excerpts taken from President's Column - September 2013 Venturer by Dave Osborne, President of Perth Bushwalkers Club.

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 map below.

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 Hill.

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.

Bauxite Mining in the Northern Darling Range
(Compilation: Dave Osborne; GoogleEarth Imagery)

A Strong but Unsuccessful Campaign Mounted

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 life’s 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?

Bauxite Mining in the Northern Darling Range
(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 Osborne's President's Column - September 2013 Venturer.

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