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Bauxite mine unwelcome

By Sarah Brookes A MORANGUP resident is protesting plans by a Chinese-backed consortium to develop an open cut mine on private farmland along the Darling Scarp saying it will sully the environment. Bauxite Alumina Joint Ventures, a partnership of Bauxite Resources and Yankuang Resources, said the Felicitas Resource, located in the Shire of Toodyay and parts of the shires of Northam and Mundaring, was expected to generate 230 million tonnes of ore, run for at least 25 years and inject around $3 billion into the WA economy. But Brian Dale, a member of the Avon and Hills Mining Awareness Group, said while he understood the need for responsible mining he did not support a mine on his doorstep. “We have all spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on our lifestyle properties and they are not cheap to maintain, but we do it as a labour of love, not only for our lifestyles, but the nature and wildlife that we share our lives with,” he said. “The residents that call Morangup, Wundowie and Wooroloo home are mostly second or third homeowners who have had to work hard from humble beginnings with our first homes, to be in a position to purchase a rural property this close to the metro area. “If we had thought for a second that one day down the track a company would come into our part of the world and announce that they had plans to mine a 65 square km open-cut bauxite mine, we never would have invested our life savings here.” BAJV chief executive officer Bill Moss said the joint venture had considered proximity to populated areas. “Companies can only apply for exploration licences covering land which is not already subject to an existing licence,” he said. “From this area, companies will target areas which are more likely to contain the mineral the company is interested in at mineable grades and in commercial quantities. “It is not simply a matter of picking a patch of land and expecting it to contain a resource.” Mr Moss said for this type of bauxite deposit, mining could be done with low impact given the right choice of mining methods and equipment. But Mr Dale cited dust, odour, noise, noxious gas emissions and an increase in road and rail traffic as negative impacts on the community. He said plans by BAJV to build a 15km conveyor from Wundowie through the heart of Morangup, under Toodyay Rd and to the Avon rail route would cause traffic congestion. “In the short term trains will move ore to the nearest suitable port which will see many more trains, probably three to four kilometres long, crossing the level crossings in the Swan Valley and Toodyay Rd and Morrison Rd until the refinery starts in Northam,” he said. “Once the refinery starts these long trains will pass through the heart of Toodyay on the way to the refinery carrying bauxite and then back through again carrying alumina to port.” But on its website BAJV said train lengths would be about 1.3km with 90 wagons, and a loco at either end, with four train movements per day. Mr Moss said a formal assessment would be conducted into the feasibility of building a refinery next to the bauxite mine, which could create 500 direct full-time jobs on top of the 120 jobs the mine was anticipated to need. “Development of the refinery project will depend on work which is currently underway or planned for the mine such as mine planning work which will provide more accurate forecasts of bauxite grades and the preparation of representative samples for further laboratory characterisation work,” he said. “We don’t believe there are any suitable sites for a refinery close to the mine and will conduct a formal site selection study as part of the refinery feasibility study at the appropriate time.” Mr Moss said BAJV intended to refer the project to the Environmental Protection Authority mid-year. “We anticipate the approval process will take 18 to 24 months, with a further 12 months for construction,” he said. “In the meantime, we are undertaking a range of engineering and environmental studies that cover environmental and social impacts, economic viability, engineering, mine planning, logistics and infrastructure options.” Nominations for the BAJV’s committee closed in February with the company working towards holding a meeting later this month.

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