Alcoa carries $240 million mining permit delay to keep “critical” WA on side

Permit applied for another decade of mining

Beyond 2023, Alcoa faces the longer-term challenge of obtaining an environmental permit to clear more than 9,000 hectares of forest to ship approximately five million tonnes of bauxite annually to its Kwinana and Pinjarra aluminum refineries, and an additional 2.5 million tonnes of the ore per year year to export .


Chief Executive Harvey called the proposal before the WA Environmental Protection Authority a “full review” of how Alcoa will expand its Huntly mine to the new Myara North and Holyoake areas for a decade beginning in 2025.

In November 2022, the EPA requested Alcoa to provide a variety of additional information, including considering whether mining the new areas was consistent with the “ongoing ecological integrity of the northern Jarrah Forest.”

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2022 said the northern Jarrah forest is at high risk of significant transition or collapse without changes in management practices.

Patrick Gardner, Wilderness Society WA campaign manager, said it was encouraging that the EPA had added assessments of forest carbon storage capacity, old-growth forest protection and cumulative impacts to the work required to obtain a permit.

“So we really need to think about what’s best for this ecosystem: the IPCC’s guidance or a government agreement that was developed when JFK was alive?” Gardner said, referring to the original deal that Alcoa got enabled mining to begin in WA in 1963.

Alcoa is seeking an environmental permit to mine the blue hatched areas beginning in 2025.

Alcoa is seeking an environmental permit to mine the blue hatched areas beginning in 2025.Credit:Alcoa

Harvey said he’s confident Alcoa can get the permits it needs to operate its three WA refineries “for a few more decades.”

“Everything is prepared, we have the right people working on it and I think we have the support of our host government,” he said.


Gardner said the same factors that led to the decision to end logging of native forests — the drying climate and reduced ability of native forests to regenerate — also played a role in the bauxite-rich northern Jarrah forests.

“Large-scale destruction from logging, land clearing, burning and bauxite mining only accelerates these impacts,” he said.

Worsley Alumina, WA’s other South32-owned bauxite mining operation, has also submitted a proposal to the EPA to significantly expand its footprint, which includes clearing more than 7,000 hectares of forest.

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Brian Lowry

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