Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Collaboration established in the Great Sandy and Little Sandy deserts

[April 2013]

Rangelands NRM is facilitating collaboration in the Great Sandy and Little Sandy deserts near Telfer with three resource companies, the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and Traditional Owners.

Representatives from Newcrest Mining Limited (Telfer gold-copper mines), Aditya Birla Minerals (Birla Nifty copper operation) and Cameco Australia (Kintyre joint venture uranium exploration project) have now met a number of times with DEC and Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ), a Martu-governed organisation that provides employment opportunities in Land Management to Traditional Owners,  to discuss how they can effectively share information and knowledge relating to land management in the area west of the Telfer minesite in the Great Sandy Desert in the East Pilbara region of WA.

Dr Gaye Mackenzie, Strategic Partnerships Manager at Rangelands NRM, said by connecting the resource companies with people from DEC and KJ, there are many opportunities to share data, engage with Traditional Owners and collectively contribute to land management work in the region.

Three specific areas of collaboration have been identified: biodiversity, fire and indigenous training/employment.

These deserts are habitat to endangered species such as bilbies, northern quoll, mulgaras and great desert skinks. The resource companies have already been sharing data with DEC and there have been discussions about increasing this knowledge exchange through programs such as the collection of bilby scats for DNA analysis to document the dietary habit of these animals.

“The group have agreed to contribute to a literature review and some parties are interested in becoming a research site,” Dr Mackenzie said.

A monitoring program for bilbies is currently being developed by DEC which will include helicopter surveys, transects, remote sensing, and DNA analysis of scats. Collected data will feed into the online database ‘Pilbara Threatened Fauna’.

The group have been talking about working together on coordinated cross-tenure fire management that will address both the protection of mining infrastructure and biodiversity. A geographic information system (GIS) program will be implemented for use in fire assessment.

Birla Nifty are also keen to work with KJ to provide work experience for Indigenous rangers.

Michael Robinson, Environmental Manager at Birla Nifty Copper Operation who initiated the group’s formation, said all mines are required to do threatened species surveys for expansions or closure planning.

“When undertaking our surveys, we noticed a decrease in threatened species such as bilbies and mulgara and a huge increase in feral cats,” Mr Robinson said.

If we are going to be able to have a positive impact on improving the status of threatened species, it makes much more sense to be looking at these issues from a regional perspective than it does for us to be looking at them only at our individual mine sites.

If we are truly responsible for ˜managing our environment,’ then more focus needs to be put on looking outside of our mines; in my view, this is where the true value of environmental management is realised.

“I hope that all of these groups can put our heads and data together to come up with some regional solutions for better managing threatened species,” Mr Robinson said.

Image: Bilby (©Babs and Bert Wells)