EPA rejects Margaret River coalmine

Protest against the proposed Margaret River coalmine in Perth, September 2010. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Campaigners won a stunning victory on March 21 when the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announced that there is “adequate information to demonstrate that Vasse Coal Management’s coalmining proposal is environmentally unacceptable”.

EPA Chairperson Paul Vogel said: “In effect, this is an EPA ‘no’ to the proposal.”

The proposed Vasse coalmine was to have been 15 kilometres from the popular tourist destination, Margaret River.

Internationally renowned as a wine-growing region, Margaret River is in the south-west of Western Australia.

Residents were particularly concerned about the threat the mine posed to water supplies and underground aquifers.

Celebrity chef and spokesperson for the No COAL!ition campaign group, Ian Parmenter, said that the only action that can reverse the EPA finding is if the state environment minister, Bill Marmion, were to overrule the decision.

“In the current climate, and in view of the premier being ‘no fan of the project’, it seems that the Vasse Coal Project is, appropriately, doomed to fail,” Parmenter said in a March 21 statement.

Labor, Liberal and Green politicians have all spoken out against the mine proposal.

Local Liberal member and cabinet minister Troy Buswell said the mining company (LD Operations) should “pack its bags and leave town” asthe EPA decision reflects the broader community view.

The Greens’ Giz Watson said the mine “has been a deeply unpopular and environmentally irresponsible proposal”. She called on Marmion to “remove the threat that has been hanging over Margaret River for too long”.

This is an important victory, but the campaign is not yet over. LD Operations expressed anger with the EPA decision and has announced its plans to appeal.

Further, No COAL!ition’s Brent Watson told the March 22 West Australian that the Vasse lease still has 25 years to run. “There's a confetti of leases and exploration licences over the region,” he said.

Parmenter told the West Australian: “What we'd like is to get that land back off the miners.”

Campaigners have also called for the government to legislate to protect the Margaret River region from coalmining.

Climate action group Safe Climate Perth and the WA Conservation Council have welcomed the EPA decision, pointing out that the coalmine would have been responsible for increasing carbon pollution.

Two days after the EPA decision was announced, a vibrant climate rally of 400 was held in Perth to counter a smaller mobilisation by climate change deniers.

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