Plans to open up to four mines in the emerging Yilgarn iron ore province may never be realised after the Environmental Protection Authority yesterday sided with conservationists against further development in the Helena Aurora Range.
Polaris Metals, a subsidiary of Mineral Resources, is the only miner with tenements in the range, 100km north of Southern Cross.
Mineral Resources and Cliffs Natural Resources are the only two Yilgarn producers.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the State Government was "committed to creating conservation reserves in the area", but adding there were "complex issues" with native title.
The EPA yesterday confirmed it had received a referral from Polaris Metals for activities in the range.
"Given the significant biodiversity values of the Helena Aurora Range, the EPA is adopting a presumption against any further development for those parts of the range that are within the conservation park identified in the Government's framework for the Mt Manning region," the EPA's annual report said.
The move was welcomed by the Wilderness Society, which last week launched a plan to reclassify the range as a national park.
The society's State director Peter Robinson was still concerned about tenements outside of the conservation area.
"We are pleased to see the EPA is ruling out mining within the conservation park but we are still concerned about the J4 tenement held by Polaris Metals, 20km north-west of the main range," he said.
The society's proposed conservation area would cover 105,000ha.
Polaris Metals declined to comment on yesterday's decision.Department of Mines and Petroleum environment executive director Phil Gorey said the department referred mining applications to the EPA "if the proposed activity is within an environmentally sensitive area".