Rio Tinto and Alcoa make way for Australia’s biggest national park

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Image credit: www.riotinto.com. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe PhotographyDate: 27 July 2009

Rio Tinto and Alcoa have announced that they have agreed to axe the 40-year-old state agreement to mine bauxite and build an alumina refinery in the north Kimberley region in Western Australia, making way for what will be Australia’s largest national park.

Image credit: www.riotinto.com. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe PhotographyDate: 27 July 2009
Image credit: www.riotinto.com. Photographer: Christian Sprogoe PhotographyDate: 27 July 2009

As a result of the termination of the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) Agreement 1971, over 175,000 hectares of WA’s Mitchell Plateau will become part of the Kimberly National Park.

The historic new agreement between the State Government, Rio Tinto and Alcoa of Australia was announced by WA’s Premier and State Development Minister Colin Barnett.

“The Mitchell Plateau and the Mitchell Falls are spectacular and unique landscapes in Australia and will be the jewels in the crown of the new Kimberley National Park. I am delighted that thanks to this agreement, this extraordinary landscape will now be conserved. This new national park will encompass the existing Prince Regent, Mitchell River and Lawley River national parks and will become Australia’s biggest national park,” the Premier said in a statement.

“The creation of a Kimberley National Park was a commitment of the Liberal National Government before the 2013 election and, along with five new marine parks, is a key component of our $81.5 million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy. Terminating this long-standing legislation is an important milestone. I would like to extend Western Australia’s sincere thanks to the proponents Rio Tinto and Alcoa for their close and co-operative work with Government, and for their efforts to aid conservation of the Kimberley.”

Rio Tinto’s CEO Sam Walsh said the mutual decision was reached as part of the company’s long-standing and ongoing commitment as a member of the West Australian community.

“While the Mitchell Plateau bauxite resource is likely to hold value in the future, the State Agreement Act required the development of an alumina refinery which has always proven to be economically challenging. Premier Barnett has made it a priority to preserve the environmental and cultural heritage values of this area as an asset for the people of Western Australia and visitors to the State. All of us at Rio Tinto are very proud to be able to encourage the Government’s ambition to establish a new National Park in the Kimberley region, with this significant addition to the conservation area,” said Mr Walsh in a media release.

“This is a very special part of the world that will have significant value as a National Park. We are very pleased to be able to join the State Government in ensuring the ecological values and natural beauty of the Mitchell Plateau is preserved for future generations,” said Alcoa of Australia Managing Director, Alan Cransberg.

Numerous sources report that the main reason behind the decision is the miners’ inability to make the project viable.

Whatever the reasons, the move will definitely please environmentalists and locals as the region in question is internationally recognised for its rich flora and fauna, tourist drawcards such as the spectacular Mitchell Falls and indigenous rock art dating back over 40,000 years.