Mining activity will be prohibited within 72sq km of the Horizontal Waterfalls – a stunning natural phenomenon north-east of Derby attracting upwards of 20,000 tourists a year – under a new State Government mining exemption.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the West Kimberley site would now be afforded more protection than national park status.
He said pending exploration applications in the area had been voluntarily withdrawn by industry operators as a show of support for the State’s move.
In 2011, Pegasus Metals Limited drew controversy by carrying out low-impact drilling works on a tenement about 4.3km north-west of the site with approval from the Department.
Mr Moore then revealed the Department was discussing with Pegasus the possibility of a second exploration licence, which includes the waterfalls and adjacent areas, being withdrawn.
Mr Moore told State Parliament if that did not eventuate, the application would be refused.
Last month, Pegasus Metals director Michael Fotios said he had initiated discussions with the Department to voluntarily give up the permit.
He said Pegasus had not intended to explore for copper in the area and the company would focus its future exploration activity inland from the coast.The Horizontal Waterfalls has also been nominated for inclusion on the Register of State Geoheritage Sites.