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Vasse Coal Project

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The Vasse Coal Project was a proposed underground coal mine in the Margaret River region in the south west of western Australia. The mine was proposed to be built approximately 25 kilometres south west of Busselton and 15 kilometres east north-east of Margaret River township. [1] The project was proposed by Vasse Coal Management, a joint venture of the privtae company Vasse Coal (30%) and South West Coal (70%), a subsidiary of the AMCI Group.[2]

The company is proposing a mine which would produce approximately 1.2 million tonnes per annum with a projected mine life of 15 to 20 years. The company is proposing that it could produce a thermal coal for "both domestic and export markets, and a product amendable to the Corex steel-making process."[3]

Environmental Protection Agency rejects proposal

In March 2011 the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority announced that it had decided that "there is adequate information to demonstrate that Vasse Coal Management’s coal mining proposal is environmentally unacceptable."[4]

A media announcement on the Board's decision stated that "the Board considered that there is likely to be significant impacts, or risks, from the proposal on the Leederville and Sues Aquifers, and on significant environmental values, including the social surrounds of the Margaret River region, which these aquifers support. Even though some of the significant impacts, or risks, may be presented as being manageable because of their low probability of occurring, the environmental consequences of some low probability event may be so serious, widespread or irreversible that the proposal, taken as a whole, on balance, presents unacceptable risks to important environmental values, and thus makes the proposal environmentally unacceptable. Based on its experience and knowledge of the complexity of matters of this kind, the Board also formed the view that more detailed and longer assessment would not alter the position."[4]

Despite the decision, Vasse Coal stated that "LDO was seeking clarification of the basis for the decision and considering its rights in terms of appeal."[5]

Barnett backs decision

Following the announcement, West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, said that he supported the EPA decision. "I had expressed as Premier that I thought that was a very doubtful prospect to have an underground coal mine in a prime wine growing area of WA and clearly there were large environmental risks to the water supply and water quality in the aquifers. It does illustrate the point that this Government allowed the process to be conducted properly, independently by the EPA. But it also shows that while this is a pro-development Government, it is not development at any cost. And where projects are not acceptable they will not be approved," he said.[6] The opposition Labor Party has also backed the rejection of the proposed mine.[7]

Subsequently, LDO lodged an appeal against the EPA's decision.[8] Subsequently the Environment Minister Bill Marmion, appointed Garry Middle as a the appeals committee. Originally Middle was scheduled to complete his report to the Minister by the end of August 2011. However, he has subsequently requested at least another month to complete the review.[9]

Short lived reprieve

While the local anti-coal campaigners celebrated the decision of the EPA, their reprieve was short-lived. Shortly after the EPA Board's recommendation to the Minister, it was reported that a Canadian company, Western Coal had applied for a coal exploration licence over an area to the north of Margaret River. The deadline for submissions was April 18th. 2011.[10] (In early 2011 Walter Energy bought Western Coal for $3.3 Billion.[11]

Ownership

The company promoting the project is Vasse Coal Management Pty. Ltd, which is 70% owned by South West Coal Ltd and 30% by Vasse Coal Pty Ltd. South West Coal in turn is a subsidiary of the AMCI Group while Vasse Coal is a privately owned company. Vasse Coal Management have "charged LD Operations Pty. Ltd. to facilitate the mine approvals, feasibility and mine development of the project."[12]

Contact details

Website: http://www.vassecoal.com.au

Citizens groups campaigning on the project

Articles and resources

References

  1. Vasse Coal, "Vasse Coal Project Location", Vasse Coal website, accessed December 2010.
  2. "Vasse Coal Project Ownership", Vasse Coal website, accessed December 2010.
  3. Vasse Coal, "Current Information about the Vasse Coal Project", Vasse Coal website, accessed December 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Environmental Protection Authority, "Level of Assessment for Vasse Coal Management’s Vasse Coal Proposal", Media Release, March 21, 2011.
  5. Vasse Coal, "Announcement of Level of Assessment: Vasse Coal Project", Media Release, March 21, 2011.
  6. Georgia Loney and Gareth Parker, "EPA says 'no' to Margaret River coal mine", The West Australian, March 21, 2011.
  7. "Coal fight", Margaret River Mail, April 6, 2011.
  8. Rebecca Lawson, "LD Operations concerned over EPA's Margaret River coal project review", PerthNow, May 2, 2011.
  9. "Coal mining review delayed", ABC News, August 11, 2011.
  10. "New coal application for Margaret River", ABC News, April 8, 2011.
  11. Walter Energy, "Company History", Walter Energy website, accessed April 2011.
  12. "Vasse Coal Project Ownership", Vasse Coal website, accessed December 2010.

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