Just four plants are holding up the mining of $100 million worth of gold that would provide more than 100 jobs and support a small struggling town in the Wheatbelt.
The West Australian revealed yesterday that gold miner Ramelius Resources had been refused permission to clear 48.8ha of land adjacent to the 110-year-old Edna May mine near Westonia because of potential disturbance to the rare native eremophila resinosa plant.
The rejection by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson on advice from the appeals convenor comes despite the proposed clearing directly affecting just four plants, Ramelius’ intention to relocate them and the company’s offer to reduce by nearly half the area it plans to clear.
The company has also rehabilitated 101.6ha of farmland north of the mine and bought land to the south to restore it to its natural state to provide habitat continuity for the plant.
Previous extensions of the mine by Ramelius and Edna May’s previous owners have resulted in the planting or translocation of 4000 eremophila resinosas.
Ramelius will submit a new 26.3ha clearing proposal in a bid to avoid the local eremophila resinosa population, but the project will likely be held up in green tape for at least another six months. The Shire of Westonia has complained about the economic impact the delay has had on the isolated community.
It has relied heavily on Edna May since it reopened in 2010.
However, Mr Dawson has encouraged the company to submit its new proposal promptly “to ensure good environmental outcomes, as well as to support local enterprise”.
WA’s Wheatbelt has just 1418 “naturally occurring” eremo-phila resinosa plants around.
The species is protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act (1950) since being declared rare flora in 1982, and has been the subject of a State-led recovery plan since 2008.
Ramelius managing director Mark Zeptner said: “Even though the minister has indicated he expects us to put in a revised proposal shortly, what we’re finding is development processes are getting slower rather than quicker.”
Responding to a question in Parliament yesterday, Premier Mark McGowan said it was not appropriate to make a species of plant extinct.
The company rejects the species would become extinct as a result of its clearing.
Significant Ramelius shareholder and Geraldton businessman Keith McMullen called the decision “ridiculous bureaucratic b…….y”.