WA’s mining industry has called for a full review of resource development in the Kimberley after Colin Barnett appeared to rule out development of a massive bauxite resource in the region owned by Rio Tinto and Alcoa.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Simon Bennison said the Kimberley was mineral-rich and “very prospective from a mining and exploration viewpoint” and planning and approvals should not be ad-hoc.
“If the State Government is going to restrict mining within the region, then a proper consultation and review process needs to take place with industry,” he said.
Last week, the Premier said he believed Rio and Alcoa’s huge bauxite deposit surrounded by national parks 115km south-west of Kalumburu would never be developed due to its location and sensitive status.
There is little existing infrastructure at the site and an alumina refinery would require huge volumes of water and electricity.
He flagged the possibility Rio and Alcoa, which hold 65 per cent and 35 per cent of the resource respectively, would return the resource to taxpayers.
He said they were “dreaming” if they thought it could be developed.
Under the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) Agreement Act 1971, the companies have been granted the right to develop the bauxite reserves as long as they build an alumina refinery in the region.
“There is no serious plan to go ahead with development there and in fact I’ll say I don’t think the bauxite resource will ever be developed,” Mr Barnett said.
Asked whether Rio should consider handing the resource back to the State, Mr Barnett said: “That might be an option in the future. There have been all sorts of plans.”
The global giants want a two to three-year extension on their State agreement over the bauxite deposit.
The agreement requires that they provide updates on their proposals and Rio continues to spend time and money on the project and its infrastructure in the area, such as its airstrip, which is used by tourist operators.
The Government must decide on the extension by the end of this month.