New mine challenge looms

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Protest against coal mine near Margaret River, 2010.
Camera IconProtest against coal mine near Margaret River, 2010. Credit: Supplied

The Margaret River region is facing a new mining challenge.

Proponents have notified the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River about their intention to lodge four new mining lease applications covering “extensive areas” of the Augusta-Margaret River shire, including beneath the Witchcliffe Eco-Village and the banks of the Blackwood River.

The matter was raised as urgent business at Wednesday night’s Shire council meeting in Cowaramup, with sustainable development director Dale Putland saying he wanted to “nip these in the bud” as soon as possible.

Although details were scarce at the time of going to print, Dr Putland said the proposed extraction leases targeted resources 30m underground. The Times understands coal, gold and mineral sands are the subjects of the lease.

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Councillors voted unanimously to endorse Shire directors to write to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety outlining the council’s fierce opposition to consideration of any mining applications in the region.

The notice evoked shades of the 2010 Osmington coal mine saga, first reported by the Times after it emerged the Office of State Development visited the region to brief elected members about moves by a contract miner to develop the project.

It triggered a long and arduous community campaign led by Osmington farmer Brent Watson under the No Coalition banner.

The State Government eventually intervened to place a 240sqkm ban on mining centred on the Osmington region.

At the time, it was known extensive areas east of Witchcliffe were subject to previous mineral exploration.

Dr Putland said the applicants were required to notify local governments of intentions to apply for mining leases.

No applications have yet been put out for public advertising.

This week’s council resolution instructed officers to provide the Shire’s previous detailed assessment of the environmental risks from the Osmington proposal, backed by geological and hydrological science provided by expert Peter Lane, now a Shire councillor.

Augusta-based Cr Mike Smart noted the history of BHP’s failed Beenup mine should also be given, with the environmental watchdog eventually cracking down on the project, which left an acid sulphate slug threatening local waterways — since remediated.

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