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Dear HtS Supporter


Newsletter #16
29 July 2009


Finally - decision time for the future of Exmouth Gulf

Western Australian Environment Minister Donna Faragher is about to make a decision with massive implications for the Exmouth Gulf - one of our iconic coastal locations.

It is now twelve months since the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA Report 1295, dated 23 July 2008) publicly detailed its strong recommendations against the Yannarie Solar Salt project proposed for the pristine Eastern Exmouth Gulf area.

The Appeals Convenor has now considered all appeals against the EPA's recommendations and his report has been presented to the Minister. We are expecting a final decision within weeks.

The EPA has already told the Minister not to allow the project to proceed under any conditions. The EPA's advice has been backed by equally strong concerns from key government departments.

The Minister could uphold the EPA's original rejection of the proposal or send the matter back to the EPA for further advice. We do not believe the Minister has been provided with any new information that should lead her to ignore the original expert advice.

We are concerned by recent decisions by this Minister that have not followed EPA advice and are continuing to work behind the scenes to ensure all Government MPs are aware of the major environmental, social and economic ramifications of this decision.

We have also sought a further meeting with the Minister to reinforce the community's opposition and her responsibility to heed the advice and warnings from a range of scientific experts.

New evidence backs scientific case against Straits' proposal

New evidence from the University of Queensland's Centre for Marine Studies has backed the science behind the scientific community's opposition to the Yannarie Solar Salt Project.

Dr Catherine Lovelock examined the impact of a major rainfall event from Tropical Cyclone Pancho in March 2008 which caused flooding over the proposed project area.

Dr Lovelock's conclusions, contained in work partly sponsored by Straits Resources, are that mangrove productivity is enhanced after cyclones, nitrogen (nutrient) is delivered in water and probably in sediments and is probably of terrestrial origin.

This provides further strong support to the key premise that interruptions to sheet water flows, such as would be caused by the proposed extensive bunding of the Yannarie project, will lead to unacceptable dimunition of nutrient flow to the Gulf with attendant unacceptable environmental effects and detrimental impact on commercial and recreational fisheries.

Dr Lovelock's research, presented to the Australian Marine Sciences Association's annual conference earlier this month, parallels earlier (2007) isotope studies by Dr Nic Dunlop which also pointed to Gulf nutrients being terrestrial in origin.

Straits Resources' project would see a massive solar salt pond complex built on the supra-tidal flat between the Gulf's unique sub-tropical mangrove system and the arid hinterland. Halt the Salt and leading experts have argued this complex would effectively block the sheet flow of floodwaters from the catchment to the biologically productive waters of Exmouth Gulf.

Two recent cyclonic events have now been observed to have produced a hydrological connection between the eastern catchment and the Gulf waters - Cyclone Bobby in February 1995 and Cyclone Pancho in March 2008. Two others, Vance in 1999 and Steve in 2000, may also have done so but there are no records of what happened across the supra-tidal flat during those events.

Dr Lovelock's findings further debunk Straits' claims that the supratidal flat is an empty ecosystem with no effective hydrological connection (surface or groundwater) with the mangroves or the waters of the Gulf.

You can read more about Dr Lovelock’s findings by visiting http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/main/campaign_the_science.php and following the links to a summary of the presentation and a recent article on her research.

Still no answers on impact of sale to overseas interests

In our last newsletter we reported that Straits Resources Pty Ltd is now planning to sell a major (60%) stake in the Yannarie Solar Salt Project to a foreign-owned company, the Thailand-based PTT Group.

Despite announcing the sale in March, Straits is still to provide any public explanation of how this may impact on the environment or previous promises of future employment.

What has the new owner been told in terms of the approval process still before government and the expert scientific advice warning against it? What commitments will the new foreign company give to the government and the community in relation to protecting the environment, jobs etc?

What has the new owner been told in terms of the approval process still before government and the expert scientific advice warning against it? What commitments will the new foreign company give to the government and the community in relation to protecting the environment, jobs etc?

The local community has spoken - 69 local businesses signed a petition against the project which was presented to the Premier in January 2009 - but fundamental questions remain unanswered at a critical time in the Government's assessment process.

This situation is unacceptable and reflects poorly on the current process employed by the Government.

We will keep you informed of further developments as they occur. We urge you to find out more about the environmental impacts of the proposed project by visiting www.haltthesalt.org.au and help us protect this area for current and future generations to enjoy.

If you have not already made a submission, please click here.

Thank you.
John Baas.
Campaign Convenor



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