South32’s Boddington bauxite mine expansion cleared with environmental provisions

AL Circle

South32's Boddington bauxite mine expansion in Australia, which aims to extend the Worsley alumina refinery's operations for an additional 15 years, has secured support from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), albeit with conditions.

South32’s Boddington bauxite mine expansion cleared with environmental provisions

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The alumina refinery, the second-largest alumina exporter in the state, has been seeking approval to develop new mining areas since 2017. This expansion plan, crucial for tapping into over 200 million tonnes of ore reserves, has faced significant opposition from conservationists. Critics have raised concerns about the potential adverse effects on endangered wildlife within the Northern Jarrah Forest.

The EPA has now recommended the project's approval to Environment Minister Reece Whitby. However, the endorsement is subject to appeal and comes with specific conditions. These conditions are designed to mitigate environmental impacts, demonstrating a commitment to environmental protection.

South32 aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and create a 12,000-hectare offsets package to restore mined land.

The EPA noted that South32 has significantly reduced its plans for native vegetation clearing, cutting them by nearly half since the initial proposal. The latest version will clear less than one per cent of the Northern Jarrah Forest, even when combined with existing approvals.

Additionally, the EPA has tightened rehabilitation requirements, including establishing exclusion zones near rivers, streams, and areas with significant plants and animals.

However, South32 stated that they are currently reviewing the details of the EPA decision.

A spokesperson from South32 said, "The project is critical to enabling access to the bauxite needed to sustain production at Worsley Alumina."

"It will support ongoing local employment and investment, including creating approximately 150 new roles during construction."

The globally diversified mining and metals company, listed on the ASX, announced that its operations, which involve mining bauxite and refining it into alumina, employ over 2,400 workers and contractors.

Jess Boyce, the Acting Director of the Western Australian Forest Alliance, criticised the decision as "disgraceful," arguing that the imposed conditions were insufficient. The forest in question provides habitat for endangered species, including the Woylie and the Western Ringtail Possum.

The Acting Director said, "In the current drying climate and extinction crisis, we cannot afford to lose any more forest and woodland habitat."

"We know that Jarrah forests cannot be rehabilitated, and the EPA notes in their assessment that rehabilitation of the forest to its former structure may not be possible with a drying climate."

"The many species threatened with extinction that are impacted by South32's mining may not survive long enough to see if their habitat can be restored."

The EPA stated that the Wagerup review spanned over five years.

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