Monday, January 4, 2010

Albany up in arms over proposal to dredge the harbour

The heat is rising in my home town of Albany and with good reason, given the poor history of Western Australian port authorities and their mining company partners in protecting the environment and people's health.

Community and business concern is growing about the proposal by the Albany Port Authority and mining company Grange Resources to spend $100 million to deepen the channel from King Georges Sound into Princess Royal Harbor to accommodate a sea borne iron ore trade through Albany.

Estimates are that the dredging will result in enough mud to fill 5000 Olympic swimming pools and the dredging material will be dumped up out in King Georges Sound to a height of 6.5 m high over 250 ha of sea floor. Local business including fishermen, whale tour operators and diving operators are concerned that the dredging and dumping of material will have far reaching long term consequences, endangering local marine life and threatening the stunning pristine coastline.

The Albany Port Authority and the mining company refute any accusation that their proposal poses any risk to local business or the environment, although they would say that wouldn't they!.

It is worth remembering that the record of port authorities and mining companies in protecting the environment in the south of the state is appalling to say the least. A Western Australian Parliamentary Inquiry found that the Esperance Port Authority and Magellan Metals (and 2 other government agencies) were guilty of "critical failings" in their handling of toxic material in allowing lead carbonate particles to escape during Port operations and poison children and the environment. The Esperance Port Authority was fined over half a million dollars after admitting responsibility for lead poisoning that caused hundreds of children to have elevated lead levels that threaten their health and killed 4000 birds.

And that port authority and mining company kept reassuring the people of Esperance that there was no threat to health or the environment. How wrong they were.

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