Rio Tinto’s exploration bid in Dwellingup Jarrah Forest is fiercely opposed by the local community

Rio Tinto’s attempt to explore for minerals in the Jarrah Forest in south-west Western Australia has faced strong opposition, with the local community and conservation groups calling for the protection of the forest.

The multinational mining giant has submitted 10 applications to “examine the potential for battery minerals, including lithium and nickel” near the town of Dwellingup, around 100 kilometers south of Perth.

“The application areas do not contain or overlap any reserves or conservation areas with International Union for Conservation of Nature listings,” a Rio Tinto spokesperson said in a statement to the ‘ABC.

“Any future exploration activity…would be undertaken in accordance with Rio Tinto’s exploration commitment to sound environmental stewardship…and in consultation with community stakeholders.”

Demonstrators gather outside the central courthouse to protest Rio Tinto’s exploration plans at Dwellingup.(ABC News: David Weber)

A hearing in the state’s Warden’s Court today brought together dozens of people aligned with conservation groups and local community organizations.

Local artist Monique Tippett was one of them and said she was concerned about the potential for mining on the outskirts of town.

“It would just be devastating [if the permits are granted] not just for me, but for anyone who loves the forest.”

A woman standing in front of a wall of artwork
Monique Tippet is an artist based in Dwellingup.(Facebook: Monique Tippett)

Ms Tippett said she was concerned that mining activities so close to town could also harm tourism and the local economy.

“All visitors who come here come to escape the city; they come here to experience nature,” she said.

“It might stop people coming here to have fun…it affects every business in town.”

A sign near a road saying 'Dwellingup- where the trails meet'.
Dwellingup already faces mining activities near other companies.(ABC Southwest: Kate Stephens)

Ms Tippett said it was not the first time minors had come to town.

“We just get landmines from all directions,” she said.

“We have Alcoa…we have Rio Tinto now considering 10 new buildings…two very close to Dwellingup and then we also have South 32,” she said.

Residents fear further environmental impacts

Sharon Parker-Brown has lived in the area for 26 years. She said if the permits were granted, it would give Rio Tinto exploration rights over her property.

“I’m not angry anymore because my property is there – now I’m just devastated for the trees and the animals because I can find another place to live,” she said.

“Unfortunately, all the little critters that live there are out of hope.

“Many of the areas that Rio Tinto wants to explore are dieback-free areas, so there is a potential risk that they will also spread dieback.”

People demonstrate in front of a building
Residents fear the miner’s plans are a step too far for the city.(ABC News: Dave Weber)

The ABC understands that the case is one of the most contested cases to come to Warden’s Court.

The court heard today that there were 1,500 separate objections to the 10 buildings.

Dane Chandler, representing Rio Tinto, told the court there were 136 individual objectors, many of whom submitted multiple objections for different claims.

Director Genevieve Cleary said that while everyone has the right to object, she was concerned that the court would operate effectively and efficiently.

She told the court that there were common interests in the environmental objections and called on the parties to consult on the best way to proceed.

The case was adjourned until February 2023.

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