The Western Australian Environment Minister Bill Marmion has upheld the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to reject Vasse Coal Management Pty Ltd’s proposal to develop a coal mine north-east of Margaret River, citing serious risks to environmental values as the main concern.

“In making my determination, I’ve decided it’s likely there would be significant impacts or risks from the proposed mine on the Leederville and Sue aquifers and on significant environmental values which these aquifers support,” Mr Marmion said.

In May, the EPA reported the proposal would be environmentally unacceptable, due to serious risks to important environmental values in the Margaret River region. Five appeals were received in objection to the EPA’s report, including one from the proponent.

After considering the appeals and a report from an independent Appeals Committee, the Minister formed a view that the conclusions of the EPA were justified, particularly noting the uncertainty of risks to surface and groundwater in the Margaret River area. 

In coming to his decision, Mr Marmion concluded that further assessment was unlikely to significantly alter the level of uncertainty. 

“Margaret River is a unique region with important environmental values which should be protected. From an environmental perspective, this project is too risky,” he said.

Having formed the view that the project is environmentally unacceptable, the Minister is required under section 45(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 to now consult with relevant decision making authorities on whether or not the proposal may be implemented based on broader social and economic factors. This process will commence as soon as possible to provide the proponent and local community with certainty regarding the proposal.