Justin Niessner

Friday, 3 October 2014

THE Western Australian Mines Department has refused to grant (FARA italics!) three prospecting licences in the Pilbara region, citing the presence of significant rock art at the site.

Burrup Materials had applied to use the licences to prospect the land within a temporary reserve with an aim of determining if there were sufficient resources to warrant an application for a mining lease.

The move, however, has encountered strong opposition from other government departments and communities in the Burrup industrial estate area, a well-established industrial area offering vacant land proximal to Australia’s largest tonnage port.

Almost 350 hectares in the area about 16km north of Karratha are on offer to prospective tenants and have attracted renewed interest from potential projects in recent years.

“I have taken into account local community objections that are concerned that rock art within the area will be compromised, so I will not be approving mining tenements within this designated temporary reserve,” Mines Minister Bill Marmion said.

“While there is no doubt that mining is important to our economy, it must be done in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Conservation group Friends of Australian Rock Art has described the Burrup Peninsula as the world’s largest outdoor rock engraving site, containing rock art of world importance possibly dating back 30,000 years.

It includes possibly the oldest representation of the human face in history.

Burrup Materials drew criticism over the issue from the Greens in August last year but defended its plan on grounds that it would work to preserve the culturally significant objects.

“People are jumping to conclusions,” Burrup director Leon Kurt Maurtiz told ABC News at the time.

“I hope to establish a rock art museum on the site, I see this as an opportunity to centralise some of that rock art and protect it from the elements, protect it from theft and from vandalism so that future generations can come and look at it, study it and enjoy it.”