WA EPA green light for South32 expansion

The WA EPA’s Worsley Mine Expansion – Revised Proposal report to the WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby is open for a three-week public appeal period, closing 29 July 2024.
The WA EPA’s Worsley Mine Expansion – Revised Proposal report to the WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby is open for a three-week public appeal period, closing 29 July 2024.

The WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended the proposed expansion of South32’s (ASX: S32) Boddington bauxite mine and Worsley refinery.

But the recommendation is subject to strict conditions, including exclusion zones around rivers, streams and significant flora and fauna.

This follows the WA Government’s recent decisions to allow Alcoa to continue bauxite mining and downstream alumina refining in the southwest of the State.

Alcoa recently received an exemption allowing it to implement mining proposals while the WA EPA assesses them, subject to conditions, along with the approval of the company’s latest five-year mine plan for its Huntly and Willowdale bauxite mines from 2023-2027.

South32’s public environmental review over more than five years assessed its impacts to flora and vegetation, terrestrial fauna, terrestrial environmental quality, inland waters, greenhouse gas emissions, social surroundings and air quality.

Over this period, the mining giant reduced its proposed native vegetation clearing footprint to 3855ha — a significant change to the 7119ha originally proposed.

“While this now equates to less than 1% of the Northern Jarrah Forest when combined with its existing approved operations, the proponent has employed substantial mitigation measures to avoid and minimise impacts on significant flora and fauna,” the EPA said in its report.

“The EPA considers rehabilitation of the Northern Jarrah Forest was a key aspect of this assessment and believes the recommended conditions will achieve an environmental outcome that sees the improved restoration of forest values.”

The EPA report also recommends a comprehensive 12,000ha offsets package which ensures no net loss in significant fauna habitat as well as regional scale benefits including improved ecological linkages and environmental buffers.

The EPA’s Worsley Mine Expansion – Revised Proposal report to the WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby is open for a three-week public appeal period, closing 29 July 2024.