No Go Areas for Mining
“No Go” Areas for mining is not a new concept. On the international scene they are referred to as “No Go” Zones. In 2003, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) committed to considering World Heritage Sites1 as off-limits to mineral development. Such a commitment has not yet occurred for IUCN I-IV protected areas2 (World Conservation Union). Marta Miranda provides more details in Chapter 1 of Framework for Responsible Mining: A Guide to Evolving Standards (published in 2005).
Miranda states that to identify whether an environmentally sensitive area might qualify as a "no go" zone, " ... biological criteria such as species richness, endemism, intactness, and rarity can be used ...". However, Mirander further qualifies this indicating that the final definition of a "no go" zone will be dependent on negotiations with stakeholders and the degree of risk they are willing to accept.
In her document, Marta Miranda outlines the importance of protecting natural areas (Chapter 1, Miranda et al. 2005).
In summary, protecting natural areas or habitats for the purpose of maintaining ecosystem and human health is of great importance on the global and local scale. The value of protecting natural areas is to maintain areas rich in biodiversity, and areas that provide essential ecosystem services such as clean water, climate regulation and soil maintenance.
Following are examples of calls for No Go Zones in Australia and Overseas
- In Western Australia, “Environs Kimberley has called on the WA Premier to make the Fitzroy Valley a no coal mining zone in the same way he has decided the Margaret River area a mining no-go zone” (Media Statement 28 June 2011).
- Calls were made in April 2011 for ‘no go’ areas for mining exploration in the Bylong Valley in New South Wales.
- Within recent years, in India, the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh placed 35% of forest areas in to no go zones for (coal) mining in 2010. A year later, Ramesh allowed mining in three blocks as part of a stage 1 development following pressure from the Coal and Power Ministeries and intervention by the Prime Minister.
- In northern Peru social organisations and peasant communities of four provinces demanded in 2011 the creation of “no-go zones for mining”.
- Gina Lopez called for No Go Zones in mining for the Philippines (14 October 2011)
Marta Miranda stated in 2005 that “Almost any company considering a commitment on “no go” zones for mining could be considered “on the leading edge” (Miranda et al. 2005). This included reference to mining companies and financial institutions. Now in 2018, such companies could still be considered to be on the leading edge.
Within Western Australia, “conservation offsets” tend to be used when mining companies operate within Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs)3 or high conservation value areas4. A conservation offset for example could be a contribution of funds towards other sites of high conservation value, or funds for the area to be impacted, supporting research in to the biology of rare species as well as regional surveys to determine the distribution and abundance of species (plants or animals) suspected to be rare. An offset can indicate that something of high conservation value is being lost, although the offset itself is intended to be a gain for conservation.
For those who are interested in how offsets are intended to operate, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has produced Position Statement No. 9 on environmental offsets in 2009 which provides advice on "the intent and appropriate use of environmental offsets", and where 'net environmental benefits' is the goal for using environmental offsets. This document can be viewed on the EPA website.
The information available for discussion and debate, on policies effectiveness and much more for protecting natural areas is extensive and we have only briefly touched on it here.
We are suggesting, very strongly, that Helena and Aurora Range be a No Go Area for mining.
Can No Go Areas for Mining be a possibility in Western Australia?
Note 1 - In Western Australia there are three World Heritage Sites, Kakadu National Park, Shark Bay and Ningaloo Coast.
World Heritage Sites "belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located" (UNESCO website November 2012). UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) was founded in November 1945 (in response to the two World Wars) towards embodying a genuine culture of peace, and in 1972 adopted a World Heritage Convention (an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage) to "... encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity." (UNESCO website, November 2012). There are a total of 962 properties included on the World Heritage List, all of which are considered to have outstanding universal value.
The IUCN was founded in 1948 (originally named as International Union for the Protection of Nature, IUPN until 1956). The protected areas list is maintained by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC, part of UNEP, United Nations Environment Programme) within the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). The WDPA is a joint venture between WCMC-UNEP and IUCN/WCPA. The WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) is the world's premier network of protected area expertise (with 1,700 members over 140 countries) which is administered by the IUCN's Global Programme on Protected Areas.
(Sources: IUCN website, UNEP website and Wikipedia, November 2012)
Note 2 - In Australia, as part of the National Reserve System (NRS) there were determined to be 9,719 terrestrial protected areas in 2010, covering 103,298,950 ha (of which 34.5% was situated in Western Australia, a total of 35,643,205 ha and 14% of the total area of WA). Of the 9,719 protected areas in Australia in 2010, 60% were within IUCN category I-IV (strict conservation areas e.g. Nature Reserve, Wilderness Area, National Park and Habitat/Species Management Area) and 40% within IUCN category V-VI (allows sustainable activities of communities e.g. agriculture and management of resources e.g. mining). In Western Australia, protected areas include Nature Reserves, National Parks, Conservation Parks, Indigenous Protected Areas and Miscellaneous Reserves. (Source: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Community website, CAPAD 2010, viewed in November 2011).
IUCN I-IV protected areas are managed primarily for conservation purposes. They are part of a global list of protected areas identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). In 2000, Recommendation 2.82 was passed by the IUCN, urging IUCN I-IV protected areas to be off-limits to extractive industry development. The mission of the IUCN is to conserve biodiversity.
Note 3 - An Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) in Western Australia is an area that has been listed, by the Minister for the Environment, as in need of environmental protection under section 51B of the Environmental Protection Act 1986. A list of ESAs was published in the Government Gazette, (Western Australia) in 2005 as an Environmental Protection (Enviornmentally Sensitive Areas) Notice 2005. This list has not been added to since 2005. ESAs are given special protection due to their vulnerability to clearing, in that they are likely to be lost as a result of development, particularly clearing due to their uniqueness, vulnerability to disturbance and/or rareity. Under Schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004, low impact mineral and petroleum activities cannot occur on ESAs and exemptions for clearing under Regulation 5 do not apply for ESAs.
ESAs in Western Australia include vegetation within 50 m of rare flora (Declared Rare Flora under section 23F of the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950).
Note 4 - The Banded Ironstone Formation Ranges in Western Australia are not included in the list of ESAs. However, they are sometimes referred to as 'environmentally sensitive areas' (all lower case and not ESAs) due to their uniqueness and vulnerability to disturbance, particulalry mining.
- CAPAD 2010, Collaborative Australian Protected Area Database, sourced from Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Community website
- Environmental Protection Authority (2009) Environmental Offsets. Position Statement no. 9
- Miranda M, Chambers D and Coumans C (2005) Framework for Responsible Mining: A Guide to Evolving Standards