The US aluminum giant is planning riskier mining near the Serpentine Dam and massive new exploration

According to Bear, Alcoa is working with regulators to improve its already rigorous practices, including installing hundreds of additional water monitoring wells, and reduced the number of drainage outages by 80 percent in 2022.

“We agree with the government on the need to maintain responsible and safe operations to protect drinking water,” he said.

Alcoa also plans to have access to more than 60,000 hectares of Jarrah forest for exploration in its 2023-2027 mining and management program, according to a person familiar with the plans, who is not authorized to speak to the media. Not all of the explored area would prove suitable for mining.

In 2022, Alcoa mined 31.4 million tons of bauxite from the Jarrah forest, 75 percent of the Pittsburgh-based aluminum giant’s global production.

The ore comes from two mining districts: Huntly, which invades the Serpentine Dam and supplied alumina refineries in Kwinana and Pinjarra, and Willowdale, which supports the Wagerup refinery. The alumina is supplied to smelters to produce aluminum.

Due to delayed approvals of mining plans in WA, Alcoa is now mining low-grade bauxite, which has increased production costs, according to Alcoa’s 2022 annual report.


Alcoa’s 2022-2026 plan was only approved by State Development Secretary Roger Cook in September 2022, and the 2023-2027 plan is still under review, a JTSI spokeswoman said.

She said the miner could not operate in higher-risk areas under the approved plan without providing a method for managing those risks that is accepted by the Mining and Management Program Liaison Group, a committee of bureaucrats overseeing the mining of Alcoa Approved.

Higher risk areas include all areas with a slope greater than 16 degrees and sub-catchments where Alcoa plans to clear more than 30 percent of vegetation.

Most mining in WA is assessed by the Independent Environmental Protection Agency and regulated by the Department of Water and Environment Regulation.

However, under a 62-year-old legal agreement with the state, Alcoa’s mining is managed by the liaison group, which is run by JTSI – the department tasked with promoting the industry, not the environment – and its plans are overseen by the Government viewed as such trades in trust.

At the end of 2022, Cook gave Alcoa 12 expectations it needed to meet in order to have future mine plans approved.

According to the most recent internal state government documentation obtained by this legal notice, Alcoa subsequently presented a plan that did not adequately address these expectations.

WA Forest Alliance chair Jess Beckerling said the level of risk and secrecy surrounding Alcoa’s mining has reached an inflection point and a full and transparent assessment is needed.

Last week, the Alliance referred the 2022-2026 and 2023-2027 plans to the WA EPA, which has 28 days to decide whether to conduct an investigation.

Alcoa’s WA operations are 40% owned by ASX listed Melbourne based company Alumina Limited.

Cook’s 12 Expectations for Alcoa’s Future Mining Plans

  • Alcoa will submit a 10-year mine plan for evaluation prior to its draft 5-year mine management plan;
  • Alcoa will provide a draft 5 year MMP to be evaluated by the Mine Management Plan Liaison Group in consultation with the Mining Operations Group to establish the final limits (based on a 24 month mine plan) of the proposed clearing of native vegetation to be determined in advance within the framework of the MMP until the submission of the final 5-year MMP.
  • Alcoa will submit a final 5 year MMP to the Minister for Government Development, Jobs and Trade based on a 24 month mining plan with other longer term conceptual mining areas to be provided for context/information only
  • The Minister will then seek the approval of the Minister for Water; Forestry and Environment Ministers that adequate consultation has taken place prior to any MMP approval; And
  • Only after the Minister has approved the MMP can Alcoa submit forest clearing proposals to the MOG for approval if they conform to a previously approved MMP
  • In order to avoid duplication and/or overlap of regulations, the MMP shall not include any clearing of native vegetation proposed as part of an existing referral under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1986
  • The MMP must outline the final boundaries of the proposed clearing of native vegetation based on a 24-month mine plan (ie, mining that will occur within 24 months of MMP approval).
  • Consider the full mining cycle planning approach and methods Alcoa will use to outline progress toward full cycle planning
  • Ingest baseline data to support MOG assessment of impacts on native vegetation, catchment hydrology and water quality
  • Provide an overview of Alcoa’s rehabilitation program, including:
    • The total area of ​​native vegetation cleared to date, the total area where remediation is complete, the total area where remediation has started but is not yet complete, and the total area where remediation has not yet started
    • The total rehabilitated areas accepted by the Department of Biodiversity and Attractions as meeting the exit criteria
    • The total remediated areas that are yet to be accepted by the DBCA as having met the exit criteria and an overview of what further work will be undertaken to meet those criteria; And
    • The methodology for the completion of future deforested area remediation, including the strategy for reducing the total deforested area if the remediation has not yet started
  • Demonstrate a formal reduction in open space and increased rehabilitation rates to prevent increased deforestation in catchment areas that serve the Perth Integrated Water System area.
  • In addition, Alcoa will work with MMPLG to:
    • Reestablish the Bauxite Hydrology Committee (BHC) or establish a similar independent Scientific Advisory Committee to co-design/co-design a scientific research program to report to the MMPLG on bauxite mining hydrology and catchment protection matters; And
    • Work with the MMPLG to draft a complete mining cycle planning approach and methodologies to ensure there is a shared understanding of the impacts of mining, including risks associated with remediation outcomes.

Source: Spokesman for Development Secretary Roger Cook

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Brian Lowry

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