Mineral and petroleum operations in the forest areas provide significant economic and social benefits to Western Australia. State forest and timber reserves also contain supplies of gravel, shale, clay, sand, limestone and rock that together are known as basic raw materials or BRM.

Mining operations in Western Australia’s south-west native forests

Mining area near South Dandalup Dam in 1980
Mining area near South Dandalup Dam in 1980
Photo © Alcoa

Mining and associated operations usually involve significant modification of the environment. Operations are approved and largely governed by processes under legislation administered by other government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the Mining Act 1978 and various State Agreements Acts. The Department of Parks and Wildlife seeks to, through input into processes associated with approvals and rehabilitation, minimize the lasting impact of these operations.

Mining for tin commenced near Greenbushes in 1888 and coal near Collie commenced in the 1890s. From the 1960s mining of notable scale in Western Australia’s publicly owned south-west native forest increased markedly with the advent of bauxite mining near Jarrahdale. Today there are a number of large scale mining operations and related activities occurring in these forests. These operations involve mining for bauxite, coal, mineral sands, tantalum and lithium, and in some cases include significant supporting infrastructure such as haul roads, conveyors and water pipelines.

Mining operations are planned and managed to avoid, where possible, significant effects on other forest uses. When mining has been completed, disturbed areas are rehabilitated and, if practical reintegrated into the forest estate. Rehabilitation to meet a standard suitable for return to State forest may not be possible in some cases. In these cases the Conservation Commission of Western Australia and the Department may seek alternative areas of forest to offset the loss of mined forest in accordance with the Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 and supporting policies.

In the case of bauxite mining operations managed by Alcoa World Alumina (Alcoa), completion criteria have been developed and agreed between Alcoa and the State to assist in ensuring that forest that has been mined has been successfully rehabilitated before returning to be managed by Parks and Wildlife. The completion criteria for Alcoa’s mining areas are available on the Department of State Development’s website at: http://www.dsd.wa.gov.au/alcoa's-bauxite-mine-rehabilitation-program.

Basic raw materials

Rehabilitated mining area near South Dandalup Dam
Rehabilitated mining area near South Dandalup Dam
Photo © Alcoa

Basic raw materials are used for road making and building throughout the south-west, and those from State forest and timber reserves are provided to government agencies and local governments through leases issued under section 97 of the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984.

The Department uses BRM for its own purposes in recreation and management activities and facilitates its supply for timber harvesting undertaken by the Forest Products Commission.

The Forest Management Plan 2014-2023 outlines management activities which seek to minimize the areas affected and the potential for other adverse environmental impacts.