The Western Australia Environmental Protection Agency has not approved plans to mine coal near Margaret River, one of the world’s premium wine-growing regions.
Proposals by Vasse Coal to start mining within 15km of Margaret River would pose ‘significant risks’ to nearby aquifers, EPA chairman Paul Vogel said.
The decision is based on information submitted by Vasse Coal, and environmental advice presented to the EPA.
‘Even though some of the significant impacts, or risks, may be presented as being manageable because of their low probability of occurring, the environmental consequences of some low probability event may be so serious, widespread or irreversible that the proposal, taken as a whole, on balance, presents unacceptable risks to important environmental values, and thus makes the proposal environmentally unacceptable,’ the EPA said.
The decision was welcomed by environmental groups and by WA Premier, Colin Barnett, who said he had expressed his doubts to the federal government.
‘It was a very doubtful prospect to have an underground coal mine in a prime wine growing area of WA and clearly there were large environmental risks to the water supply and water quality in the aquifers.’
The Margaret River Wine Industry Association, along with No Coalition Margaret River had mounted an effective campaign against the plans.
No Coalition spokesman Ian Parmenter said the decision ‘means all that work has been justified and the EPA has come to the logical and only possible conclusion that it’s not environmentally acceptable’.
While the wine industry is applauding the decision, there are some dissident voices. One bulletin board post suggests run-off water from wineries, polluted with pesticides, is contributing to the decline of the hairy marron, a giant crayfish native to Margaret River.
Written by Adam Lechmere