Rio Tinto to axe plans to explore Darling Scarp forests for battery materials amid strong opposition

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Rio Tinto has decided not to continue with applications for exploratory licences along the Darling Scarp.
Camera IconRio Tinto has decided not to continue with applications for exploratory licences along the Darling Scarp. Credit: Facebook/RegionalHUB

A global mining giant has reversed plans to explore large areas of jarrah forest in the Darling Scarp for battery materials, in a move which has been celebrated by environmental groups.

Rio Tinto will withdraw its application to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety for 10 separate mining exploration licences stretching from just east of Keysbrook in the north to Mumballup near Collie in the south.

The total area of the potential tenements is about 92,000ha, including areas not far from the Waroona and Harvey townships.

A company spokesperson confirmed the decision on Wednesday.

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“Rio Tinto is in the process of withdrawing its applications for exploration licenses in the South-West of Western Australia,” they said.

“This decision has been made for a number of reasons, including in response to concerns raised by local communities.”

The matter has been going through legal proceedings in the Perth Mining Warden’s Court after nine groups formally objected to the applications, including the shires of Waroona and Murray, the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council and the WA Forest Alliance.

Waroona Shire president Mike Walmsley expressed the council’s support of the company’s decision.

“We were going to put in a submission against it,” he said.

“We are certainly pleased (Rio Tinto) have listened to concerns about the amount of mining in the Jarrah forest.”

Speaking about the proposal in February, WAFA convener Jess Beckerling noted her organisation’s reasons for objecting to the exploration application.

“The idea of Rio Tinto smashing down old-growth jarrah forests, including spectacular forests right near Dwellingup and along the Nanga Brook is just outrageous — particularly with everything we know about climate change and the value of intact forests,” she said.

The Northern Jarrah Forests — which covers the area Rio Tinto was seeking to explore — has been recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot by the Untied Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Climate change is having profound impacts on this incredibly diverse and precious part of the world and there can be no new mining in these forests.

“We cannot keep clearing forests and using up scarce water resources and expect regions to stay in good shape.”

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