The state’s peak conservation organisation has backed calls for the EPA to launch a comprehensive assessment of Alcoa’s plans to clear 6,700 hectares for the expansion of its Alumina Refinery.
The mining giant has proposed a transition from its current Huntly Bauxite Mine in Myara to two other sites – one of which is just a few kilometres east of the Jarrahdale townsite.
Bauxite ore, which is the world’s main source of aluminium, forms in shallow pods and often requires a constantly moving mining operation.
It is understood the clearing is part of the company’s 10-year mine plan, with the Myara North site to be operational from 2025-2030 and the Holyoake site from 2030 until 2035.
Over the last week, the proposal has been the subject of a seven-day consultation period by the EPA this week to determine the level of assessment appropriate.
Jarrahdale Forest Protectors chair Jan Star said the group held grave concerns about the impact that clearing the forest could have on vulnerable species and the region’s status as a recreational destination – with the clearance area set to cover parts of the Balmoral Trail and parts of the Bibbulmun Track.
“The long-term effects of deforestation cannot be understated,” she said.
“We are eager to see the small portion of forest that is left retained.
“The high-quality Jarrah forest is home to several threatened species, including the Black Cockatoos and Chuditch, as well as their feeding sources.
“The area is also becoming increasingly popular for its recreational opportunities, and this could have a devastating impact.
“The proposed clearing area would also see a number of the existing walking trails impacted.
“As a corporation Alcoa have been good citizens, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re altering the forest.”
The group has since called for a Public Environmental Review, the highest level of environmental assessment undertaken by the state’s Environmental Protection Authority.
Those sentiments were echoed by the Conservation Council of WA, which took to social media to encourage its 24,000 followers to take part in the EPA’s consultation process.
A spokesperson from the EPA told Examiner Newspapers that it had received more than 1730 submissions during the seven-day consultation period, which would now be reviewed.
A spokesperson from Alcoa said the company had been consulting with stakeholders in the Jarrahdale community regarding the plans since 2017 and was committed to doing so throughout the 30-month EPA assessment process.
The company has also vowed to rehabilitate the mined area “to the highest standards” and re-establish a self-sustaining Jarrah forest ecosystem; having rehabilitated more than 75 per cent of the area it has mined to date.
Alcoa’s two bauxite mines and three alumina refineries employ about 3700 West Australians and contribute about $600 million in wages annually.
Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale president Michelle Rich confirmed that both she and the chief executive officer had received a briefing from the company regarding the plans and supported the community and stakeholders in participating in the EPA’s public consultation process.
It is understood a determination will be made within the coming weeks regarding the level of assessment the Environmental Protection Authority has deemed appropriate.