Any slim credibility attributed to the the Golden Gecko awards for environmental management in the mining industry went out the window this year with the announcement of the 2010 award winners by the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Hon. Norman Moore.
Minister Moore said in a media release
“These award winners have demonstrated leadership and excellence in environmental practices in the mineral and petroleum sector,“All of the submissions have demonstrated exceptional environmental management over a range of different projects,”
Hang on, is this the mining industry we are talking about? Exceptional environmental management? It sounds almost too good to be true. Well, it is.
You dont have to dig to far below the overburden of PR in the media release before the orebody underneath starts to look like a much more ugly picture.
Two of the projects that won awards, and another that was nominated have been rejected by the State’s environmental watchdog, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as environmentally unacceptable.These are resource projects operating in some of the worlds most sesitive, unique and pristine environments. These areas should be protected, not turned into quarries.
Irvine Island in the Kimberley is a good example of an area where mining should not even be considered, yet Pluton Resources, conducting mining exploration there have won a prestigeous environmental award.
The Conservation Council of WA appealed the decision to allow Pluton to conduct minerals exploration on the Island, and at the time the EPA stated in formal advice to the Appeals Convenor:
“Given the very high conservation values on and surrounding the island, and the currently near-pristine condition of the area, mining is seen as inappropriate”
Another project that won a Golden Gecko was Crosslands Resources Jack Hill Iron Ore mine in the unique and stunning Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) Ranges in the States Mid West. Mining these ranges is just that – it involves removing the entire mountain range and shipping it to China. These ranges are the remnants of an ancient landmass, and, like islands in the landscape, they have developed their own unique floristic communities. More info on the BIF ranges is here and you can watch a video explainingwhy these ranges need to be protected here.
Windarling Mine Pit in BIF Ranges. Photo: Brian Moyle
The EPA said the Jack Hills mine could go ahead on the provision that representative areas of the ranges and their threatened flora were set aside for conservation. THE EPA have clearly stated that if significant areas are not set aside for conservation then several plant species will likley be driven to extinction in the Mid West. Once again, the EPA advice has not been followed, with the Minister for the Environment since overruling the EPA on several occasions to allow more mines in the BIF ranges.
Mt. Manning in the BIF Ranges. Photo: Brian Moyle
Most of the mining companies active in the Mid West BIF ranges are backed by Chinese investors, or the Chinese Government who have been lobbying to get an easier ride in the environmental approvals process, which can only mean compromised environmental standards. Keen to placate the Chinese when visiting China in July last year, Premier Barnett stated publicly that his office was ‘intervening’ in the environmental approvals process for Mid-West iron ore companies, and that ‘It should not be business as usual with China.
It may not be fair to suggest that all this is the fault of Crosslands Resources, but to give them an environmental award for mining in an area which is likely to see the extinction of threatened species makes the Golden Gecko awards look more like a cynical public relations stunt than an award to be proud of.
The controversial Chevron LNG project on Barrow Island A-Class nature reserve was also nominated for a golden Gecko, and is featured proudly in the glossy brochure for the awards this year.
Once again, the EPA ruled against the proposal, saying it was environmentally unacceptable, and a threat to endangered sea-turtles and several malmmals that exist only on the Island. Once again, this advice was overturned by Government. Since then the project has had an appalling environmental record including numerous quarantine breaches, killing endangered turtles, and most recently the sinking of a service vessel carrying hundreds of liters of diesel.
In a previous year the Esperance Port Authority received a Golden Gecko award for dust management before they went on to contaminate the town of Esperance with lead dust.
Perhaps these awards should be re-named the Golden Gecko Awards for environmental incompetence in the minerals industry.
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