A landmark strategic framework that will provide for the long-term sustainable development of the Mid-West iron-ore industry has been endorsed by the State Government.
The framework was released today by Resources Minister Francis Logan and Environment Minister David Templeman.
Mr Logan said the framework would deliver the best possible outcome for the State by maintaining a balance between the development of an iron-ore industry and the conservation needs of the region.
It followed a strategic review of the mining and biodiversity values of the banded iron ranges of the Mid-West and Goldfields undertaken by the Department of Industry and Resources (DOIR) and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).
Mr Logan said the framework identified areas where the State Government favoured mining development, preferred sites for conservation and other areas that required further investigation.
“This framework represents a responsible middle ground that maximises the potential of the Mid-West to share in the social and economic benefits of the resources boom, while maintaining a high degree of environmental responsibility,” he said.
“We acknowledge that neither the mining industry nor the environmental sector has been given everything they wanted.
“We do not subscribe to the theory that the environment must be sacrificed for the benefit of industry - and vice versa.
“But responsible state governments need to make tough decisions and we have considered the conflicting interests in this case and delivered a fair and responsible outcome for the State.
“The two government agencies central to this announcement, DOIR and DEC, are to be commended for rolling up their sleeves and tackling what has been a very difficult and complex issue.
“There are still substantial challenges to be met before the Mid-West iron ore industry reaches its potential, but today’s announcement successfully crosses one of the critical hurdles and provides some certainty for the future.
“The Carpenter Government is making decisions for the future to ensure the next generations can continue to share in the benefits of the booming economy and our precious environment.”
Mr Logan said the unique banded iron formations ranges in the Mid-West were believed to contain between $50-80billion in mineral resources.
He said this quantity could sustain an iron ore industry with annual exports of 50-90 million tonnes, enough to underpin the development of a new port at Oakajee.
“World demand for iron ore is forecast to increase significantly in the next decade and, with much of the resources in demand located in the ranges, it is important that we plan for the future,” Mr Logan said.
“This framework delivers that plan as a strategic approach to resource mining and biodiversity conservation decision making for the Mid-West and Goldfields.”
Mr Templeman said the ranges also had significant biodiversity value due to their unique geology, soils and relative isolation and they hosted a number of rare and restricted plant species and communities.
“The ranges are also very distinct features in the regional landscape, so it is important that we have a strong balance between conservation and development needs of this area,” he said.
Since 2002, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has completed formal assessments on three mining proposals in the region and is currently working on another three. There are a further three at the feasibility stage and 25 prospects under exploration.
Under the Environmental Protection Act, the EPA is limited to assessing only the environmental aspects of the proposals, while the State Government is responsible for the assessment of the broader issues of sustainability, environmental, economic and social costs and benefits.
Mr Templeman said the large number of mining proposals in the region were presenting the EPA with an increasingly difficult challenge.
“This co-ordinated response will give industry greater certainty, while providing the EPA with clear guidelines about the economic and environmental objectives the State Government wants to achieve,” he said.
“We must ensure examples of the banded iron landscapes are retained partially and in their entirety for their biodiversity and landscape values as well as tourism potential, while enabling responsible development in appropriate ranges.
“I also intend to consider how this document can be used to streamline the approvals process.”
Office of the Minister for Resources - 9222 8950
Office of the Minister for the Environment - 9220 5050