Nine groups packed a warden’s courtroom on Friday to represent their opposition to recent applications by mining giant Rio Tinto for 10 mineral exploration licences across 107,000 hectares of forest in the state’s southwest.
Dozens of environmental activists made a showing on the steps of the Central Law Courts in the lead up to the first hearing in the case, which was brought by WA Forest Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Conservation Council of WA, Jarrahdale Forest Protectors, Peel Harvey Catchment Council, Nannas for Native Forests, Dwellingup Discovery Forest Defenders, Leeuwin Group and Nature Reserves Preservation Group.
The court heard there were 1500 separate objections to the applications, involving 136 individuals.
WA Campaigns Manager for The Wilderness Society Patrick Gardner addressed the crowd of supporters at the steps of the Central Law Courts.
“Make no mistake standing here today, wherever this proceeding ends up in the coming days, this is historic, the joining together of almost 150 organisations and individuals to oppose this type of exploration activity is something we should be really proud of.
“We’re doing this on behalf of our local communities, we’re doing this on behalf of future generations who have a right to see those unblemished Northern Jarrah Forests for many generations to come.
“The world’s eyes are watching, they are watching the actions of companies like Rio Tinto and Alcoa and South32, they’re watching the actions of the WA government with regard to how they protect regions like the Northern Jarrah Forest.
“Earlier this year the IPCC made a public statement through their reporting that the Northern Jarrah Forests were an area of concern alongside the Great Barrier Reef, alongside well-known and globally recognised native forest ecosystems.
“These Northern Jarrah Forests are under continued threat from mining, burning, logging and the exacerbating impacts of climate change.
“With all of that comes a very real prognosis from the IPCC that this is an area on the verge of significant transition or collapse if we don’t change the way we are managing and looking after and caring for these forests.”
Campaign Director for WA Forest Alliance Jess Beckerling described it as a landmark case.
“This is the first day in what’s going to be a landmark case of all of us representing these nine environment groups versus Rio Tinto to make sure they cannot get a foothold in the Northern Jarrah Forest.
“What we have here in WA is an incredibly powerful community of people who have stood up for forests over many generations.
“We’ve seen a huge breakthrough with the end of native forest logging coming up now in 18 months’ time, we’re going to see a minimum of 400,000 hectares of those forests protected in secure national parks.
“Now we have this new, major threat of another multinational mining company seeking to come into the Northern Jarrah Forest, but we say no, the Northern Jarrah Forests are too precious.”
In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto said the application areas do not contain or overlap reserves or conservation zones with International Union for Conservation of Nature listings.
“Any future exploration activity … would be undertaken in accordance with Rio Tinto exploration’s commitment to sound environmental management … and in consultation with community stakeholders.”
The matter was adjourned until February 2023.
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