In December 2014 the WA Environment Protection Authority (EPA) advised Environment Minister Albert Jacob that the proposal from Mineral Resources Ltd to mine the Helena Aurora Range was "environmentally unacceptable" (EPA 2014). This was great news and a tribute to the groups and individuals who have worked hard over the years to see this amazing 'jewel in the crown' of the Great Western Woodlands protected.
Unfortunately, Jacob bowed to mining industry pressure and directed the EPA to carry out a new assessment, likely to take at least another year. The final decision on the mine proposal is still to be made by WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob. We will continue to work hard to make sure he makes the right decision sometime in 2016 and we hope you will too. Let him know that you want the range protected here.
One of the wonderful features of the Great Western Woodlands are the amazing ‘Banded Ironstone Formation' (BIF) Ranges, such as the Helena Aurora Range. The Range has been described by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA 2007) as "one of the more significant biodiversity assets in WA". But now this ancient and unique landscape, loved by all who visit it, is under imminent threat from being destroyed forever.Why is it worth protecting?
Since time immemorial, the Helena Aurora Range has been part of the country of the Kalamaia Kapurn people who call it Bungalbin. Helena and Aurora Range is considered to have the highest conservation value among the Banded Iron Formation (BIF) ranges in the central Yilgarn; it is pristine and yet is under imminent threat from mining interests. For these reasons, Helena and Aurora Range is the immediate focus and the most appropriate BIF range to be recommended for Class A, National Park status.
After decades of soundly-based recommendations for the full and secure protection of the Helena Aurora Range (Bungalbin); and in light of the opportunity for joint management of the area with its Traditional Owners; and in response to the threat of destruction of much of the range, the time has come for the WA government to act responsibly and protect this exceptional feature of our environment. With so many of WA’s other outstanding ‘banded ironstone’ ranges destroyed or in the process of being destroyed, it’s time to right the balance and protect this exceptional example for future generations. Check out this video and see for yourself.
It features special, ancient geology & landscapes:
- The range is called a “Banded Iron Formation” or BIF range.
- Banded iron is iron-rich chert (and chert is mainly silica).
- It’s the tallest range in the Coolgardie Bioregion – Bungalbin Hill is 690m.
- The geology of the range is about 2.6 billion years old.
The range is home to many rare, endemic and threatened species:
- 5 Endemic flora species
- 2 Declared rare flora
- 14 Priority species
- 3 Threatened fauna species
- 10 BIF-dependent flora species
- 1 Priority one ecological community
- ~350 Native plant species in total
- ~113 Native fauna species
It has long been recommended for protection:
- Over several decades there have been repeated recommendations from scientists, government agencies and conservation organisations for the full protection of the Helena and Aurora Range (Bungalbin);
- First proposed for protection by WA Museum scientists in 1979-80;
- Recommended for protection by CALM in 1994;
- In December 2005, Helena and Aurora Range was formally included within the Mt Manning Reserve - Vested as “Conservation Park – Other than Class A” (Reserve no. 48470);
- This lesser category of reserve was adopted by government, contrary to advice from its own scientists, under pressure from the mining industry to allow for mining as a future land use.
On the 15th October 2013, The Wilderness Society in collaboration with the Helena Aurora Range Advocates (HARA) the The Wildflower Society of WA launched a National Park proposal for the Helena and Aurora Range (launched by renowned WA nature photographer Simon Nevill). The proposal has the support of senior Traditional Owners of the area and goes into great depth of why this area should be upgraded from a Conservation Park (that allows mining) to the secure protection status of a National Park. You can download a copy here. The proposal for protection follows decades of similar recommendations from scientists and even the Environmental Protection Authority.
EPA Recommendation (Bulletin 1256, 2007): “Reserve [the] range as an ‘A Class’ Nature Reserve for protection of high concentrations of endemic rare flora and priority ecological communities; exceptional landforms; threatened fauna habitats; mature eucalypt woodlands that are declining in the Wheatbelt; and Aboriginal heritage.”Why is it under threat?
Several BIF ranges in and around the Great Western Woodlands are already in the process of being destroyed by mining companies, like the beautiful Windarling Range, and many more are in the industry’s firing line. The next target in their sights is the Helena and Aurora Range, with it's extremely rich and high grade iron-ore that the Range's ecosystem is dependent on.
Despite longstanding calls for the protection of the range, Polaris Metals Ltd (subsidiary of Mineral Resources Ltd) has sought approval to begin mining the Range. The quantity of shippable iron-ore that could be produced in the entire life of the two proposed mines at the Range is less than two month's worth of iron ore mining in the Pilbara. Mining this Range is for pure greed and is not in the public interest. The damage from mining would be irreversible to this delicate, ancient and unique ecological community, considered be many as one of WA's most significant biodiversity assets.What you can do to protect it!
There are many ways you can help protect this spectacular natural icon.
1) Write a letter. Since coming to office in 2008, the Barnett government has been handing huge sections of Western Australia over to the mining industry and heavily subsidising their operations. Write to your local MP or Environment Minister Albert Jacob and let them know that you think this area should be gazetted as a National Park and is no place for mining. This simple task can have a big impact - and the more letters, the bigger the impact! Never written a letter to an MP before? No worries, just grab one of our letter-writing guides and a fact sheet & you'll be set!
2) Visit the range. This jewel in the crown of the Great Western Woodlands should be treasured and enjoyed by all. Why not join us on a camping trip with guided hikes. Or even get out there on your own with friends and family. We've got maps and easy directions to get you on your way you can download here.
3) Spread the word! The more people that know about this ancient & unique place the better. We hope to grow a movement of inspired and connected citizens, both local and from far and wide, who are moved to take action to protect the Helena and Aurora Range. Why not host a movie night showing this incredible video of the range? Or write an article for your school newspaper? Or share pictures of you and your friends at the range on facebook? Or anything else creative you can come up with! Get in touch with your local WA Campaign Office if you'd like some support and resources.
4) Sign and share our petition. We wish to petition Parliament, on behalf of all Western Australians, for the full protection of Helena and Aurora Range (Bungalbin), but we need your help. If you'd like to ensure future generations get to this this ancient place for themselves, then download, sign, share and send back a copy of our petition. Click here.
5) Contact us. Why not get in touch with your local WA Campaign Office and find out more information, ways to get involved or discuss your own ideas about how we can protect this jewel in the Great Western Woodlands.
7. Helena Aurora Range Advocates website - a very useful source of information