BILLIONAIRE Andrew Forrest has lost a bid to stop a mineral sands joint venture from mining on his family’s Pilbara-based cattle station, after nearly three years of dispute.
Perth-based explorer Onslow Resources and project partners Yarri Mining and Quarry Park were granted conditional approval to mine the Ashburton River bed, 100km south of Newman, in late January.
Mr Forrest, founder of iron ore giant Fortescue Metals Group, had argued against the approval, stating the development would damage the Ashburton River environment and surrounds, and would prevent him from effectively using the land at his privately owned pastoral property, Minderoo.
According to The Guardian, Mr Forrest’s submission to the WA Warden’s Court stated the mining operation would “sterilise and degrade the land” and “cause environmental damage”.
“Mr Forrest regards the Ashburton River to be significant to its pastoral operations on Minderoo as a source of water, and from the overall benefits it brings to all aspects of the surrounding environment,” the submission said.
However, Magistrate Stephen Wilson ruled against Mr Forrest, recommending WA’s Department of Mines and Petroleum grant the mining leases subject to conditions, including infill drilling and land rehabilitation.
Onslow Resources and its partners reportedly plan to mine sand from the Ashburton River bed during the dry season, to supply mineral sands to multinational construction company Boral for Chevron’s nearby Wheatstone gas project.
Minderoo cattle station, near Onslow, had been in the Forrest family property portfolio for 120 years, before Mr Forrest’s father sold the property in 1998, citing drought and increasing debt. Mr Forrest repurchased the 226,585 hectare station for $12 million in 2009, and has since hosted between 3000 and 10,000 cattle at the site.
He is expected to appeal the latest ruling in the Supreme Court.