A Rio Tinto initiative to free up one of the world’s great wilderness areas marks an important step in supporting the West Australian Government’s plans to establish Australia’s largest national park.
Rio Tinto and joint venture partner Alcoa have agreed to terminate a historic State Agreement Act intended to facilitate the mining of bauxite and the development of an alumina refinery in the north Kimberley region, clearing the way for the area to be included in the Kimberley National Park.
The area 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.
Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said “The Kimberley National Park can now include the Mitchell Plateau area, where Rio Tinto and other mining companies have undertaken exploration since the early 1970s.
“More than 175,000 hectares of land on the Mitchell Plateau will become part of what is intended be Australia’s largest national park, covering over two million hectares across the Kimberley.
“Rio Tinto has made this decision around the conservation of Mitchell Plateau as part of its 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.”
Since the State Agreement was established more than 40 years ago, the Mitchell Plateau Joint Venture (Rio Tinto and Alcoa) has actively evaluated the development of an integrated bauxite mine and alumina refinery project.
The termination of the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) State Agreement Act is expected to occur with the finalisation of legislation being progressed in the State Parliament.