PERTH (miningweekly.com) – New South Wales-based LD Operations had until May 16 to appeal against the decision by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that the proposed Vasse coal project was environmentally unacceptable.
The EPA on Monday released its recommendations to the Western Australian Environment and Water Minister Bill Marmion, effectively stating that the proposed Vasse coal project was environmentally unacceptable.
The EPA’s recommendations supported its earlier declaration made during March this year.
The proposed Vasse coal mine would be located around 15 km from the tourist town of Margaret River, and would produce between one-million and 1,5-million tons a year run-of-mine coal, over a life-of-mine of between 15 and 20 years.
In the EPA’s report to Marmion, the watchdog concluded that the proposed mine posed “serious risks” to important environmental values in the Margaret River region, especially on surface and groundwater and on the “social surroundings”.
“The EPA is also of the view that a comprehensive environmental impact assessment whereby impact avoidance and risk reduction measures are fully explored following detailed technical and scientific investigations and modelling to predict impacts, is unlikely to provide the EPA with an adequate level of confidence about the likelihood of success of those measures to the extent necessary to enable it to recommend approval for implementation,” the report read.
However, LD Operations has expressed “grave concerns” that the EPA’s report on the Vasse coal project was contradictory to information provided by government agencies, and ignored critical expert evidence.
The coal developer said that the report did not provide full and accurate information to Marmion.
LD Operations has now called on the Environment and Water Minister to direct the EPA to undertake a more rigorous assessment of the project.
The company noted that between December 2010 and March 2011, the EPA received advice from nine government agencies, including the Department of Water, the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Mines and Petroleum, in regard to the project; none of which supported the EPA’s decision not to allow the project to proceed to a full and comprehensive public environmental review (PER).
“In fact, the Departments stated that additional studies were required to determine the impact of the project – as would have occurred under a full PER process,” LD Operations said in a statement.
The company added that this advice included a statement from the Department of Water the day before the EPA’s decision that listed the studies that should be undertaken, as well as a statement from the Department of Mines and Petroleum confirming that assumptions on the project would be premature.
“Additionally, the EPA appears to have concerns itself with the ‘social surrounds’ of the region, without defining the meaning of the term nor providing any assessment or evaluation of the social surrounds impacts cited in its decision, nor was any information of this nature provided,” the coal hopeful said.
LD Operations also expressed its concern that the EPA did not consider critical expert advice provided by the company regarding subsidence and water impacts.
“As acknowledged by the EPA itself in the report good quality information is essential to making a judgment on the environmental acceptability of proposals. The above matters indicate that, on the basis of preliminary advice from government agencies and without due regard to relevant expert advice, the EPA did not have sufficient information of the necessary quality before it to make an informed determination on the environmental acceptability of the Vasse coal project,” the miner said.
“In LD Operations’ view, the assessment of the project to date has been deficient and should be revisited.”
The company said that it would review the report in detail to determine its appeal rights, adding that it believed a rigorous and comprehensive PER remained the best option to allow for an informed decision.